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An Introduction to Philosophy 


An Introduction to Philosophy 



Translated by 


Copyright ig$i by Karl Jaspers in England 

Copyright ip$4 by Yale University Press in the United States 

Seventh printing, December 1964 

Printed in the United States of America 

by The Carl Purington Rollins Printing-Office 

of the Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut 

All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced, 
in whole or in part, in any form (except by reviewers for 
the public press) without written permission from the 


Ihapter I. 

What Is Philosophy? 

Page 7 


Sources of Philosophy 



The Comprehensive 



The Idea of God 



The Unconditional Imperative 






The World 



Faith and Enlightenment 



The History of Man 



The Independent Philosopher 



The Philosophical Life 



The History of Philosophy 



I. Philosophy and Science 147 

II. On Reading Philosophy 168 

III. Bibliography 195 

Index 201 


/Vhat philosophy is and how much it is worth 
.re matters of controversy. One may expect it to yield 
xtraordinary revelations or one may view it with 
ndifference as a thinking in the void. One may look 
ipon it with awe as the meaningful endeavour of excep- 
ional men or despise it as the superfluous broodings of 
Jreamers. One may take the attitude that it is the 
;oncern of all men, and hence must be basically simple 
tnd intelligible, or one may think of it as hopelessly 
lifficult. And indeed, what goes by the name of 
philosophy provides examples to warrant all these 
:onflicting judgments. 

I For the scientific-mnnded, the worst aspect of 
philosophy is that it produces no universally valid 
^esults; it provides nothing that we can know and thus 
possess. Whereas the sciences in their fields have gained 
;ompellingly certain and universally recognized in- 
>ights, philosophy, despite thousands of years of 
endeavour, has done nothing of the sort. This is undeni- 
able: in philosophy there is no generally accepted, 
definitive knowledge. Any insight which for cogent 
t-easons is recognized by all has ipso facto become 
scientific knowledge and ceased to be philosophy; its 
relevance is limited to a special sphere of the knowable. 
Nor is philosophical thought, like the sciences, 
characterized by progressive development. Beyond any 


doubt, we are far more advanced than Hippocratej< 
the Greek physician. But we are scarcely entitled ti 
say that we have progressed beyond Plato. We hav 
only advanced beyond his materials, beyond th.| 
scientific findings of which he made use. In philosopbj 
itself we have scarcely regained his level. 

It lies in the very nature of philosophy, as dis 
tinguished from the sciences, that in any of its forms i 
must dispense with the unanimous recognition of alii 
The certainty to which it aspires is not of the objective; 
scientific sort, which is the same for every mind; it is an 
inner certainty in which a man's whole being partici- 
pates. Whereas science always pertains to particular^ 
objects, the knowledge of which is by no means indis-^ 
pensable to all men, philosophy deals with the wholei| 
of being, which concerns man as man, with a truth 
which, wherever it is manifested, moves us more 
deeply than any scientific knowledge. 

Systematic philosophy is indeed bound up with the 
sciences. It always reckons with the most advanced 
scientific findings of its time. But essentially philosophy 
springs from a different source. It emerges before any 
science, wherever men achieve awareness. 

The existence of such a philosophy without science is 
revealed in several striking ways : 

First: In philosophical matters almost everyone 
believes himself capable of judgment. Whereas it is 
recognized that in the sciences study, training, method 
are indispensable to understanding, in philosophy men 
generally assume that they are competent to form an 
opinion without preliminary study. Our own 


pmanity, our own destiny, our own experience strike 
(IS as a sufficient basis for philosophical opinions. 

This notion that philosophy must be accessible to all 
s justified. The circuitous paths travelled by specialists 
n philosophy have meaning only if they lead man to 
m awareness of being and of his place in it. 

Second: Philosophical thought must always spring 
prom free creation. Every man must accomplish it for 

! A marvellous indication of man's innate disposition 
o philosophy is to be found in the questions asked by 
:hildren. It is not uncommon to hear from the mouths 
)f children words which penetrate to the very depths 
)f philosophy. A few examples: 

A child cries out in wonderment, "I keep trying to 
;hink that I am somebody else, but I'm always myself." 
This boy has touched on one of the universal sources of 
:ertainty, awareness of being through awareness of 
self. He is perplexed at the mystery of his I, this 
mystery that can be apprehended through nothing 
slse. Questioningly, he stands before this ultimate 

Another boy hears the story of the Creation : In the 
beginning God made heaven and earth . . . and 
immediately asks, "What was before the beginning?" 
This child has sensed that there is no end to question- 
ing, that there is no stopping place for the mind, that 
no conclusive answer is possible. 

A little girl out walking in the woods with her father 
listens to his stories about the elves that dance in the 
clearings at night . . . "But there are no elves ..." 
Her father shifts over to realities, describes the motion 


of the sun, discusses the question of whether it is th< 
sun or the earth that revolves, and explains the reasoni 
for supposing that the earth is round and rotates on itij 
axis . . . "Oh, that isn't so," says the little girl and 
stamps her foot. "The earth stands still. I only believe 
what I see." "Then," says her father, "you don'ii 
believe in God, you can't see Him either." The littk: 
girl is puzzled for a moment, but then says with greal| 
assurance, "If there weren't any God, we wouldn't bel 
here at all." This child was seized with the wonder o\\ 
existence: things do not exist through themselves. And| 
she understood that there is a difference between! 
questions bearing on particular objects in the world! 
and those bearing on our existence as a whole. |j 

Another little girl is climbing the stairs on her way toS 
visit her aunt. She begins to reflect on how everything^ 
changes, flows, passes, as though it had never been! 
"But there must be something that always stays thef 
same . . . I'm climbing these stairs on my way to see* 
my aunt — that's something I'll never forget." Wonder4 
ment and terror at the universal transience of things] 
here seek a forlorn evasion. 

Anyone who chose to collect these stories might 
compile a rich store of children's philosophy. It is 
sometimes said that the children must have heard all 
this from their parents or someone else, but such an] 
objection obviously does not apply to the child's really! 
serious questions. To argue that these children do not! 
continue to philosophize and that consequently such! 
utterances must be accidental is to overlook the fact 
that children often possess gifts which they lose as they 
grow up. With the years we seem to enter into a prison' 



|f conventions and opinions, concealments and un- 
[uestioned acceptance, and there we lose the candour of 
hildhood. The child still reacts spontaneously to the 
pontaneity oflife; the child feels and sees and inquires 
nto things which soon disappear from his vision. He 
brgets what for a moment was revealed to him and is 
urprised when grownups later tell him what he said 
Ind what questions he asked. 

Third : Spontaneous philosophy is found not only in 
ihildren but also in the insane. Sometimes — rarely — 
[he veils of universal occlusion seem to part and 
[)enetrating truths are manifested. The beginning of 
;ertain mental disorders is often distinguished by 
hattering metaphysical revelations, though they are 
isually formulated in terms that cannot achieve 
ignificance : exceptions are such cases as Holderlin and 
^an Gogh. But anyone witnessing these revelations 
:annot help feeling that the mists in which we ordin- 
arily live our lives have been torn asunder. And many 
;ane people have, in awaking from sleep, experienced 
itrangely revealing insights which vanish with full 
^vakefulness, leaving behind them only the im- 
pression that they can never be recaptured. There is 
brofound meaning in the saying that children and fools 
[tell the truth. But the creative originality to which we 
pwe great philosophical ideas is not to be sought here 
put among those great minds — and in all history there 
liave been only a few of them — who preserve their 
icandour and independence. 

j Fourth: Since man cannot avoid philosophy, it is 
always present: in the proverbs handed down by 
padition, in popular philosophical phrases, in dominant 



convictions such as are embodied in the idiom of th 
"emancipated," in political opinions, but most of al 
since the very beginnings of history, in myths. There i 
no escape from philosophy. The question is onl 
whether a philosophy is conscious or not, whether it i 
good or bad, muddled or clear. Anyone who reject 
philosophy is himself unconsciously practising i 

What then is this philosophy, which manifests itsell 
so universally and in such strange forms? 

The Greek word for philosopher {philosophos) con- 
notes a distinction from sophos. It signifies the lover oli 
wisdom (knowledge) as distinguished from him whoi 
considers himself wise in the possession of knowledge. 
This meaning of the word still endures : the essence ofj 
philosophy is not the possession of truth but the searchL 
for truth, regardless of how many philosophers mayil 
belie it with their dogmatism, that is, with a body oft! 
didactic principles purporting to be definitive andj! 
complete. Philosophy means to be on the way. Its 
questions are more essential than its answers, and every 
answer becomes a new question. 

But this on-the-wayness — man's destiny in time — 
contains within it the possibihty of deep satisfaction, 
and indeed, in exalted moments, of perfection. This 
perfection never resides in formulable knowledge, in 
dogmas and articles of faith, but in a historical con- 
summation of man's essence in which being itself is 
revealed. To apprehend this reality in man's actual 
situation is the aim of philosophical endeavour. 

To be searchingly on the way, or to find peace and 



ihe fulfilment of the moment — these are no definitions 

bf philosophy. There is nothing above or beside philo- 

ophy. It cannot be derived from something else. Every 

philosophy defines itself by its realization. We can 

jletermine the nature of philosophy only by actually 

;xperiencing it. Philosophy then becomes the realiz- 

ition of the living idea and the reflection upon this 

dea, action and discourse on action in one. Only 

)y thus experiencing philosophy for ourselves can 

ve understand previously formulated philosophical 


But we can define the nature of philosophy in other 

ays. No formula can exhaust its meaning and none 

an be exclusive. In antiquity philosophy was defined 

by its object) as the knowledge of things divine and 

uman, the knowledge of being as being, or it was 

efined (by its aim) as learning how to die, as the 

triving for happiness by the exercise of thought; as an 

endeavour to resemble the divine; and finally (in the 

roadest sense) as the knowledge of all knowledge, the 

rt of all arts, as the science — confined to no particular 


Today perhaps we may speak of philosophy in the 

following terms ; its aim is 

to find reality in the primal source ; 
to apprehend reality in my thinking attitude toward 
myself, in my inner acts ; 

to open man to the Comprehensive in all its 

to attempt the communication of every aspect of 
truth from man to man, in loving contest; 

patiently and unremittingly to sustain the vigilance 



of reason in the presence of failure and in the presenc 
of that which seems alien to it. 

Philosophy is the principle of concentration througl! 
which man becomes himself, by partaking of reality, h 


Although philosophy, in the form of simple, stirring: 
ideas, can move every man and even children, its con- (1 
scious elaboration is never complete, must forever b«fl 
undertaken anew and must at all times be approached! 
as a living whole — ^it is manifested in the works of thei 
great philosophers and echoed in the lesser philo- 
sophers. It is a task which man will face in one form orr 
another as long as he remains man. 

Today, and not for the first time, philosophy iss 
radically attacked and totally rejected as superfluousi^ 
or harmful. What is the good of it? It does not help usi 
in affliction, | 

Authoritarian church thought has condemned! 
independent philosophy on the ground that it is a 
worldly temptation which leads man away from God, 
destroys his soul with vain preoccupations. Political 
totalitarianism has attacked it on the ground that 
philosophers have merely interpreted the world in 
various ways, when the important thing was to change 
it. Both these schools of thought regarded philosophy 
as dangerous, for it undermined order, promoted a 
spirit of independence, hence of revolt, deluded man 
and distracted him from his practical tasks. Those who I 
uphold another world illumined by a revealed God and j 
those who stand for the exclusive power of a godless 
here and now would equally wish to extinguish 




i And everyday common sense clamours for the simple 
ardstick of utility, measured by which philosophy 
gain fails. Thales, who is regarded as the first of Greek 
hilosophers, was ridiculed by a slave girl who saw him 
ill into a well while observing the sky. Why does he 
^arch the remote heavens when he is so awkward in 
is deahngs with the things of this world? 

Must philosophy then justify itself? That is im- 
>ossible. It cannot justify itself on the basis of a some- 
hing else for which it is useful. It can only appeal to the 
orces in every man which drive him toward philo- 
ophical thought. It is a disinterested pursuit, to which 
mestions of utility or injuriousness have no relevance, 
m endeavour proper to man as man, and it will con- 
inue to fulfil this striving as long as there are men alive, 
iiven those groups which are hostile to it cannot help 
larbouring their own peculiar ideas and bringing forth 
pragmatic systems which are a substitute for philo- 
jophy, though subservient to a desired end — such as 
Marxism or fascism. The existence of even these 
Isystems shows how indispensable philosophy is to man. 
Philosophy is always with us. 

Philosophy cannot fight, it cannot prove its truth, 
but it can communicate itself. It offers no resistance 
where it is rejected, it does not triumph where it gains 
a hearing. It is a living expression of the basic univer- 
sality of man, of the bond between all men. 

Great systematic philosophies have existed for two 
and one-half millennia in the West, in China, and in 
India. A great tradition beckons to us. Despite the 
wide variety of philosophical thought, despite all the 
contradictions and mutually exclusive claims to truth, 



there is in all philosophy a One, which no mai 
possesses but about which all serious efforts have at al 
times gravitated: the one eternal philosophy, th 
philosophia perennis. We must seek this historical foundaii 
tion of our thinking if we would think clearly am 


The history of philosophy as methodical think- 
ing began twenty-five hundred years ago, but as 
rtiythical thought much earlier. 

j The beginning however is something quite different 
from the source. The beginning is historical and 
provides those who follow with a mounting accumula- 
[tion of insights. But it is always from the source that 
^he impulsion to philosophize springs. The source alone 
lends meaning to present philosophy and through it 
alone is past philosophy understood. 

This source is of many kinds. Wonderment gives 
rise to question and insight; man's doubt in the know- 
ledge he has attained gives rise to critical examination 
and clear certainty; his awe and sense of forsakenness 
lead him to inquire into himself And now let us 
examine these three drives. 

First : Plato said that the source of philosophy was 
wonder. Our eyes gave us "the sight of the stars, the 
sun and the firmament." This "impelled us to examine 
the universe, whence grew philosophy, the greatest 
good conferred upon mortals by the gods." And 
Aristotle: "For it is owing to their wonder that men 
both now begin and at first began to philosophize: 
they wondered originally at the obvious difficulties, 
then advanced little by little and stated difficulties 



about the greater matters, e.g., about the phenomenal 
of the moon, and those of the sun, and of the stars, and 
about the genesis of the universe." 

Wonder impels man to seek knowledge. In my 
wonderment I become aware of my lack of knowledge. 
I seek knowledge, but for its own sake and not "to 
satisfy any common need." 

In philosophical thought man awakens from his I 
bondage to practical needs. Without ulterior purpose i 
he contemplates things, the heavens, the world, and 
asks, what is all this? Where does it come from? From 
the answers to his questions he expects no profit but an- 
intrinsic satisfaction. j 

Second : Once I have satisfied my wonderment and i 
admiration by knowledge of what is, doubt arises. I j 
have heaped up insights, but upon critical examination | 
nothing is certain. Sensory perceptions are conditioned | 
by our sense organs and hence deceptive; in any event i 
they do not coincide with what exists in itself outside j 
me, independently of my perception. Our categories 
are those of our human understanding. They become I 
entangled in hopeless contradictions. Everywhere [ 
proposition stands against proposition. In my philoso- \ 
phical progress I seize upon doubt and attempt to' 
apply it radically to everything, either taking pleasure I 
in the sceptical negation which recognizes nothing but , 
by itself cannot take a single step forward, or inquiring : \ 
Where then is there a certainty that rises above all I 
doubt and withstands all critique? I 

Descartes' famous proposition, "I think, therefore i 
I am," was for him a solid certainty, though he i 
doubted everything else. For even a total fallacy in my 



Linking, a fallacy which may be beyond my under- 
tanding, cannot blind me to the realization that in 
irder to be deluded in my thinking I must be. 

Methodical doubt gives rise to a critical examina- 
ion of all knowledge, and without radical doubt 
here can be no true philosophical thought. But the 
Tucial question is : How and where has a foundation 
or certainty been gained through doubt itself? 

And third: While I concentrate my energies upon 
;he knowledge of things in the world, while I am 
mgaged in doubt as a road to certainty, I am im- 
nersed in things; I do not think of myself, of my aims, 
ny happiness, my salvation. In forgetfulness of my 
elf I am content with the attainment of this know- 

This changes when I become aware of myself in my 


The Stoic Epictetus said, "Philosophy arises when 
we become aware of our own weakness and helplessness''* 
How shall I help myself in my weakness? His answer 
was: By looking upon everything that is not within 
my power as necessary and indifferent to me, but by 
raising what does depend on me, namely the mode 
and content of my ideas, to clarity and freedom by 

And now let us take a look at our human state. We 
are always in situations. Situations change, opportuni- 
ties arise. If they are missed they never return. I 
myself can work to change the situation. But there 
are situations which remain essentially the same even 
if their momentary aspect changes and their shattering 



force is obscured: I must die, I must suffer, I must 
struggle, I am subject to chance, I involve myself 
inexorably in guilt. We call these fundamental situa- 1 
lions of our existence ultimate situations.* That is to 
say, they are situations which we cannot evade or 
change. Along with wonder and doubt, awareness 
of these ultimate situations is the most profound i 
source of philosophy. In our day-to-day lives we often i 
evade them, by closing our eyes and living as if theyfj 
did not exist. We forget that we must die, forget our 
guilt, and forget that we are at the mercy of chance. 
We face only concrete situations and master them to 
our profit, we react to them by planning and acting in 
the world, under the impulsion of our practical 
interests. But to ultimate si-tuations we react either by 
obfuscation or, if we really apprehend them, by ! 
despair and rebirth : we become ourselves by a change j 
in our consciousness of being, j 

Or we may define our human situation by saying j 
that no reliance can be placed in worldly existence. \ 

Ingenuously we mistake the world for being as \ 
such. In happy situations we rejoice at our strength, j 
we are thoughtlessly confident, we know nothing but I 
our actuality. In pain and weakness we despair. But i 
if we come out of this situation alive we let ourselves i 
slip back into forgetfulness of self and a life of hap- | 
piness. i 

* The term here translated as "ultimate situation" is Grenzsituation. This j 
u a concept of central importance for the understanding of Jaspers' thought, 
as for the understanding of Existentialism. As the context above shows, the ! 
ultimate situations arc the inescapable realities in relation to which alone ! 
human life can be made genuinely meaningful. Ultimate situations cannot be 
changed or surmounted ; they can only be acknowledged. 



Such experience however has sharpened man's 
^its. The menace beneath which he Hves drives him 
io seek security. He expects his mastery of nature and 
lis community with other men to guarantee his 

Man gains power over nature in order to make it 
;erve him; through science and technology he seeks 
;o make it reUable. 

But in man's domination of nature there remains 
an element of the incalculable which represents a 
constant threat, and the end is always failure: hard 
labour, old age, sickness and death cannot be done 
kway with. Our dominated nature is rehable only 
in isolated cases; in the whole we can place no 

Men band together in a community in order to 
limit and ultimately abolish the endless struggle of all 
against all; they seek to achieve security through 
mutual aid. 

But here again there is a limit. Only if there were 
states in which every citizen stood to every other in a 
relation of absolute solidarity could justice and free- 
dom be secure. For only then, if a citizen suffered 
injustice, would all others oppose it as one man. Such 
a state has never been seen. Those who have stood by 
one another in extremity and weakness have never 
been more than limited groups, and sometimes no 
more than a few individuals. No state, no church, no 
society offers absolute security. Such security has been 
a pleasing delusion of quiet times, in which the 
ultimate situations were veiled. 

But there is a counterweight to the general 



unreliability of the world : there are in the world things f^^ 
worthy of faith, things that arouse confidence ; there 
is a foundation which sustains us : home and country, 
parents and ancestors, brothers and sisters and 
friends, husbands and wives. There is a foundation 
of historical tradition, in native language, in faith, in 
the work of thinkers, poets, and artists. However, this f 
tradition also gives no security, it is not absolutely 
reliable. For we encounter it always as the work of j^ 
man; God is nowhere in the world. Tradition always 
implies a question. Keeping sight of the tradition, 
man must always derive what for him is certainty, 
being, the reliable, from his own primal source. 
But the precariousness of all worldly existence is a 
warning to us, it forbids us to content ourselves with 
the world ; it points to something else. 

The ultimate situations — death, chance, guilt, and 
the uncertainty of the world — confront me with the 
reality of failure. What do I do in the face of this 
absolute failure, which if I am honest I cannot 1 
fail to recognize? | 

The advice of the Stoic, to withdraw to our own j 
freedom in the independence of the mind, is not • 
adequate. The Stoic's perception of man's weakness I 
was not radical enough. He failed to see that the mind j 
in itself is empty, dependent on what is put into it, ! 
and he failed to consider the possibility of madness, i 
The Stoic leaves us without consolation; the indepen- j 
dent mind is barren, lacking all content. He leaves us i 
without hope, because his doctrine affords us no ' 
opportunity of inner transformation, no fulfilment i 

22 i 


irough self-conquest in love, no hopeful expectation 
f the possible. 

And yet the Stoics' striving is toward true phil- 
sophy. Their thought, because its source is in 
Itimate situations, expresses the basic drive 
find a revelation of true being in human 

Crucial for man is his attitude toward failure: 
v^hether it remains hidden from him and over- 
whelms him only objectively at the end or whether 
le perceives it unobscured as the constant limit of his 
;xistence; whether he snatches at fantastic solutions 
md consolations or faces it honestly, in silence 
before the unfathomable. The way in which man 
approaches his failure determines what he will be- 

In ultimate situations man either perceives nothing- 
Less or senses true being in spite of and above all 
Ephemeral worldly existence. Even despair, by the very 
tact that it is possible in the world, points beyond the 

Or, differently formulated, man seeks redemption. 
Redemption is offered by the great, universal religions 
of redemption. They are characterized by an objective 
guarantee of the truth and reality of redemption. 
Their road leads to an act of individual conversion. 
This philosophy cannot provide. And yet all phil- 
osophy is a transcending of the world, analogous to 

To sum up: The source of philosophy is to be sought 
in wonder, in doubt, in a sense of forsakenness. In 



any case it begins with an inner upheaval, whicli 
determines its goal. 

Plato and Aristotle were moved by wonder to seels 
the nature of being. 

Amid infinite uncertainty Descartes sought com 
peUing certainty. 

Amid the sufferings of life the Stoics sought the; 
repose of the mind. 

Each of these experiences has its own truth, clothed! 
always in historical conceptions and language. Im 
making these philosophies our own we penetrate the 
historical husk to the primal sources that are alive i^ 
within us. I; 

The inner drive is toward firm foundations, depth of 
being, eternity. 

But for us perhaps none of these is the most funda- 
mental, absolute source. The discovery that being 
can be revealed to wonder is a source of inspiration, 
but beguiles us into withdrawing from the world and 
succumbing to a pure, magical metaphysic. Compel- 
ling certainty is limited to the scientific knowledge 
by which we orient ourselves in the world. Stoic 
imperturbability serves us only as a makeshift in 
distress, as a refuge from total ruin, but in itself 
remains without content and life. 

These three motives — wonder leading to know- 
ledge, doubt leading to certainty, forsakenness leading 
to the self— cannot by themselves account for our 
present philosophical thought. 

In this crucial turning point in history, in this age 
of unprecedented ruin and of potentialities that can 
only be darkly surmised, the three motives we have 



lus far considered remain in force, but they are not 
dequate. They can operate only if there is communica- 
lon among men. 

In all past history there was a self-evident bond 
letween man and man, in stable communities, in 
astitutions, and in universal ideas. Even the isolated 
ndividual was in a sense sustained in his isolation. 
:he most visible sign of today's disintegration is that 
nore and more men do not understand one another, 
hat they meet and scatter, that they are indifferent 
o one another, that there is no longer any reliable 
;ommunity or loyalty. 

Today a universal situation that has always 
ixisted in fact assumes crucial importance: That I 
;an, and cannot, become one with the Other in truth; 
hat my faith, precisely when I am certain, clashes 
A^ith other men's faith; that there is always some- 
A^here a limit beyond which there appears to be noth- 
:ng but battle without hope of unity, ending inevitably 
in subjugation or annihilation; that softness and 
Complaisance cause men without faith either to 
band blindly together or stubbornly to attack one 

All this is not incidental or unimportant. It might 
be, if there were a truth that might satisfy me in my 
isolation. I should not suffer so deeply from lack of 
communication or find such unique pleasure in 
authentic communication if I for myself, in absolute 
soUtude, could be certain of the truth. But I am only in 
conjunction with the Other, alone I am nothing. 

Communication from understanding to under- 
standing, from mind to mind, and also from existence 



to existence, is only a medium for impersonal mean 
ings and values. Defence and attack then becom( 
means not by which men gain power but by v/hicl 
they approach one another. The contest is a loving 
contest in which each man surrenders his weapon}' 
to the other. The certainty of authentic being resides! 
only in unreserved communication between men whoi 
live together and vie with one another in a free 
community, who regard their association with onet! 
another as but a preliminary stage, who take nothingi 
for granted and question everything. Only in com- 
munication is all other truth fulfilled, only in com- 
munication am I myself not merely living but fulfilling;! 
life. God manifests Himself only indirectly, and only] 
through man's love of man; compelling certainty is>' 
particular and relative, subordinated to the Whole, i,, 
The Stoical attitude is in fact empty and rigid. j 

The basic philosophical attitude of which I am 
speaking is rooted in distress at the absence of com- 
munication, in the drive to authentic communication, 
and in the possibility of the loving contest which' 
profoundly unites self and self. 

And this philosophical endeavour is at the same 
time rooted in the three philosophical experiences 
we have mentioned, which must all be considered in 1 
the light of their meaning, whether favourable or ! 
hostile, for communication from man to man. j 

And so we may say that wonder, doubt, the ex- ' 
perience of ultimate situations, are indeed sources of| 
philosophy, but the ultimate source is the will to i 
authentic communication, which embraces all the i 
rest. This becomes apparent at the very outset, for • 

26 i 


oes not all philosophy strive for communication, 
xpress itself, demand a hearing? And is not its very 
jssence communicability, which is in turn inseparable 
|rom truth? 

j Communication then is the aim of philosophy, and 
jn communication all its other aims are ultimately 
iooted: awareness of being, illumination through 
love, attainment of peace. 




Here i should like to speak of one of thejl 
most difficult philosophical ideas. It is an indispensable 
idea, because it forms the foundation of all truly, 
philosophical thinking. It must be intelligible in 
simple form, though its elaboration is a complex 
affair. I shall attempt to give an intimation of this idea. , 

Philosophy began with the question: What is?^ 
At first sight, there are many kinds of being, the things? 
in the world, the forms of the animate and inanimate, , 
all the infinitely many things that come and go. Butt 
what is true being, that is, the being which holds 
everything together, lies at the base of everything, the 
being from which everything that is issues? 

To this there are curiously many answers. The first 
venerable answer of the first philosopher is : Every- ; 
thing is water and comes from water. Later thinkers 
said that everything is fundamentally fire or air or 
the indeterminate or matter, or atoms; or that life 
is primal being, from which inanimate things have 
merely degenerated; or that the mind is true being 
and that things are mere appearances, its ideas, which 
it produces as though in a dream. Thus we find a 
great number of metaphysical attitudes, which have 
been known as materialism (everything is matter and 
mechanical process), spiritualism (everything is j 
spirit), hylozoism (the cosmos is a living spiritual i 

28 , 


lubstance), and so on. In every case being was 
Refined as something existing in the world, from 
Ivhich all other things sprang. 

But which then is the correct view? Through 
thousands of years the warring schools have been 
iinable to demonstrate the truth of any one of them, 
[n each view some truth is manifested, namely an 
attitude and a method of inquiry which teach men to 
see something in the world. But each one becomes 
false when it lays claim to exclusiveness and strives 
to explain all existence. 

Why is this so? All these views have one thing in 
common: they apprehend being as something which 
confronts me as an object, which stands apart from 
me as I think it. This basic phenomenon of our 
consciousness is to us so self-evident that we barely 
suspect the riddle it presents, because we do not 
inquire into it. The thing that we think, of which we 
speak, is always something other than ourselves, it is 
the object toward which we as subject are oriented. 
If we make ourselves into the object of our thinking, 
we ourselves become as it were the Other, and yet at 
the same time we remain a thinking I, which thinks 
about itself but cannot aptly be thought as an object 
because it determines the objectness of all objects. 
We call this basic condition of our thinking the subject- 
object dichotomy. As long as we are awake and 
conscious we are always involved in it. Twist and turn 
as we will we are always in this dichotomy, always 
oriented toward an object, whether the object be the 
reality of our sense perception, whether it be the con- 
cept of ideal objects, such as numbers or geometrical 




figures, or whether it be a fantasy or even an impossible jtl 
imagining. We are always confronted outwardly or jo 
inwardly by objects, which are the content of our!t 
consciousness. As Schopenhauer said, there is noj^ 
object without a subject and no subject without anl 
object. i 

What is the meaning of this ever-present subject-^ 
object dichotomy? It can only mean that being as ai 
whole is neither subject nor object but must be the* 
Comprehensive, which is manifested in this dichotomy. 

Clearly being as such cannot be an object. Every- 
thing that becomes an object for me breaks away 
from the Comprehensive in confronting me, while I 
break away from it as subject. For the I, the object 
is a determinate being. The Comprehensive remains 
obscure to my consciousness. It becomes clear only 
through objects, and. takes on greater clarity as the 
objects become more conscious and more clear. The 
Comprehensive does not itself become an object but is 
manifested in the dichotomy of I and object. It j 
remains itself a background, it boundlessly illumines j 
the phenomenon, but it is always the Compre- I 
hensive. ■ 

But there is in all thinking a second dichotomy, j 
Every determinate object is thought in reference to j 
other objects. Determinacy implies differentiation of j 
the one from the other. And even when I think of | 
being as such, I have in mind nothingness as its I 
antithesis. | 

Thus every object, every thought content stands in i 
a twofold dichotomy, first in reference to me, the j 

30 i 


hinking subject, and secondly in reference to other 
pbjects. As thought content it can never be eyery- 
Ihing, never the whole of being, never being itself. 
^Whatever is thought must break out of the Compre- 
hensive. It is a particular, juxtaposed both to the I 
^nd to other objects. 

Thus in our thinking we gain only an intimation of 
:he Comprehensive. It is not manifested to us, but 
everything else is manifested in it. 

What are the implications of this idea? 

Measured by our customary understanding in 
relation to things, it seems unnatural. Our under- 
standing, attuned to the practical, resists it. 

The basic operation by which we raise ourselves 
above everything that is thought is perhaps not 
difficult, but it seems strange because it does not 
bring knowledge of a new object which we then 
apprehend, but aspires with the help of the idea to 
transform our consciousness of being. 

Because it shows us no new object, the idea, 
measured by our customary worldly knowledge, is 
empty. But by its form it opens up to us infinite 
possibiUties in which being may manifest itself to us, 
and at the same time lends transparency to everything 
that is. It transforms the meaning of the world of 
objects, by awakening in us a faculty of sensing what 
authentically is in the phenomenon. 

Let us attempt a further step toward the elucidation 
of the Comprehensive. 

To philosophize- concerning the Comprehensive 



would mean to penetrate into being itself. This carj 
only be done indirectly. For even as we speak we arei 
engaged in object thinking. Through object thinking 
we must gain indices to the nonobject, that is to the 
Comprehensive . 

An example is the thought operation we have just 
performed. The moment we state the subject-object 
dichotomy in which we always find ourselves and 
which we cannot see from outside, we make it into I 
an object. But this is basically incongruous. For \ 
dichotomy is a relation between things in the world ; 
which confront me as objects. This relation becomes] 
an image by which to express what is not visible and ] 
can itself never become object. ! 

Still thinking in images, we ascertain through the i 
source that is present within us a polyvalence in this ; 
subject-object dichotomy. It is fundamentally dif- j 
ferent, depending on whether I as understanding am 1 
oriented toward objects; as Dasein, being-there, toward ' 
my environment; or as existence toward God. j 

As understanding we confront tangible things, and I 
to a certain measure we succeed in obtaining com- j 
pelling and universally valid knowledge, but always , 
of determinate objects. | 

As being-there, as men living in our environment, j 
we experience in it what we perceive with our senses, ' 
what achieves reality for us as the presence which : 
cannot be reduced to universal knowledge. 

As existence we are oriented toward God — trans- : 
cendence — and this through the language of things, I 
which existence uses as hieroglyphics or symbols. \ 
Neither our understanding nor our vital sensualism 



apprehends the reality of this symboHsm. God as 
! object is a reality only for us as existence; He is 
I situated in an entirely different dimension from the 
empirical, sensible objects susceptible to compelling 

I Thus the Comprehensive, when we seek to ap- 
prehend it, breaks down into several modes ; according 
to the three modes of the subject-object dichotomy, 
we have seen it break down into (i) the understanding, 
jpr consciousness as such, as which we are all identical ; 
!(2) being-there, as which we are each of us a particular 
individual; (3) existence, as which we are authentically 
ourselves in our historicity. 

I cannot elaborate on this statement in this brief 
space. Suffice it to say that the Comprehensive, 
conceived as being itself, is called transcendence 
(God) and the world, while as that which we our- 
selves are it is called being-there, consciousness, mind, 
and existence. 

Now that, with our basic philosophical operation, 
we have loosened the fetters binding us to objects 
mistaken for being itself, we are in a position to under- 
stand the meaning of mysticism. For thousands of 
years philosophers in China, India, and the West 
have given utterance to a thought which is everywhere 
and at all times the same, though diverse in its 
expression: man can transcend the subject-object 
dichotomy and achieve a total union of subject and 
object, in which all objectness vanishes and the I is 
extinguished. Then authentic being opens up to us, 
leaving behind it as we awaken from our trance a 



consciousness of profound and inexhaustible meaning. 
For him who has experienced it, this becoming one is 
the true awakening, and the awakening to conscious- 
ness in the subject-object dichotomy is more in the 
nature of sleep. Plotinus, the greatest mystical phil- 
osopher of the West, writes: 

"Often when I awaken to myself from the slumber 
of the body, I behold a wondrous beauty: I then 
believe firmly that I belong to a better and higher 
world, I call forth the most glorious life within me, I 
have become one with the godhead." 

We cannot doubt the existence of mystical 
experience, nor can we doubt that mystics have 
always been unable to communicate what is 
most essential in their experience. The mystic is 
immersed in the Comprehensive. The communicable 
partakes of the subject-object dichotomy, and a clear 
consciousness seeking to penetrate the infinite can 
never attain the fullness of that source. We can speak 
only of that which takes on object form. All else is 
incommunicable. But its presence in the background 
of those philosophical ideas which we call speculative 
constitutes their content and meaning. 

On the basis of our philosophical inquiry into the 
Comprehensive, we shall be better able to understand 
the great metaphysical theories of history, the theories 
of fire, matter, the mind, the world process, etc. For in 
reality they were not solely the object knowledge as 
which they are often interpreted, and considered as 
which they are completely false; they were hierogly- 
phics of being, devised by the philosophers out of the 



presence of the Comprehensive, for the elucidation of 
the self and of being — and then at once mistaken for 
positive objectivizations of authentic being. 

When we move amid the phenomena of the world, 
we come to realize that we possess being itself neither 
in the object, which becomes continuously more 
restricted, nor in the horizon of our always limited 
world taken as the sum of phenomena, but only in 
the Comprehensive which transcends all objects and 
horizons, which transcends the subject-object 

Once we have ascertained the Comprehensive 
through our basic philosophical operation, we realize 
that all the metaphysics we have listed, all those 
supposed insights into being, are in error as soon 
as they interpret anything that is in the world, however 
important and significant, as being itself. But they are 
the only language in which we can speak when we 
transcend all objects, ideas, world horizons, phe- 
nomena, to perceive being itself. 

For we do not attain this goal by leaving the world, 
except in incommunicable mysticism. Only in articu- 
late object knowledge can our consciousness remain 
clear. Only in object knowledge, experiencing its 
limits through what it surmises at the limit, can our 
consciousness achieve content. Even in the thinking 
which transcends object knowledge we remain in it. 
Even when we see through the phenomenon it holds 
us fast. 

Through metaphysics we obtain an intimation of 
the Comprehensive in transcendence. We understand 
this metaphysics as a symbol. 



But we lose its meaning if we succumb to irrespon- 
sible aesthetic enjoyment of its ideas. For its content is 
manifested to us only if we perceive the reality in the 
symbol. And we perceive it only out of the reality of 
our existence and not out of mere understanding, 
which in this sphere declines to see any meaning at all. 

But above all we must not look on the symbol of I 
reality as a physical reality like the things which we 
grasp, live with, and consume. To regard the object 
as being is the essence of all dogmatism, and toi 
mistake the materiality of symbols for reality is; 
specifically the essence of superstition. For super- 
stition is chained to the object, faith is rooted in the 

And now the last methodological consequence of 
our experience of the Comprehensive : the conscious- 
ness of the discontinuity of our philosophical thinking. 

When we think of the Comprehensive in phil- 
osophical terms, we are making an object of what is 
essentially not an object. Hence we must always make 
a reservation: we must retract the object content of 
what has been said, if we would arrive at that 
experience of the Comprehensive which is not a 
communicable content resulting from inquiry but an 
attitude of our consciousness. It is not my knowledge 
but my consciousness of being that changes. 

But this is a basic trait of all true philosophical 
thought. Man soars to the Comprehensive in the 
medium of determinate object thinking, and only in 
that medium. He actualizes in consciousness the 
foundation of our life in being, the guidance from that 



sphere, the basic mood and meaning of our Hfe and 
iactivity; he frees us from the fetters of determinate 
thinking, not by reHnquishing it but by carrying it to 
the extreme. In the general philosophical idea he 
leaves room for its realization in the present. 

Being can only be for us on condition that it be- 
come present to the rnind in the dichotomy of subject 
and object. Hence our drive toward clarity. That 
which is present only obscurely must be apprehended 
in object form, out of the essence of the I fulfilling 
itself. Being itself, the foundation of all things, the 
absolute, presses upon our consciousness in object 
form which, because as object it is inadequate, dis- 
integrates, leaving behind the pure clarity of the 
presence of the Comprehensive. 

Awareness of the subject-object dichotomy as the 
fundamental fact of our thinking existence and of the 
Comprehensive that becomes present in it gives us the 
freedom needed for philosophy. 

It is an idea that frees us from every existent. It 
compels us to turn back from the impasse of absolutiza- 
tion. It is as it were an idea that turns us about. 

For those who found support in the absoluteness of 
things and in a theory of knowledge confined to 
objects, the loss of them is nihilism. Exclusive reality 
and truth cannot be imputed to that which dis- 
course and object thinking have made determinate 
and hence finite. 

Our philosophical thinking passes through this 
nihilism, which is in truth a liberation for authentic 
being. By our rebirth in philosophy the meaning and 



value of all finite things, though always limited, are 
enhanced; we are made fully aware that our roads 
must lead through them, but at the same time we 
achieve the only possible basis for freedom in our 
dealings with these things. 

The fall from absolutes which were after all 
illusory becomes an ability to soar; what seemed an 
abyss becomes space for freedom; apparent Nothing- 
ness is transformed into that from which authentic 
being speaks to us. 




Our western idea of God springs from two 
historical roots: the Bible and Greek philosophy. 

When Jeremiah saw the ruin of everything for which 
he had worked all his life, when his country and his 
people were lost, when in Egypt the last remnants of 
his people turned aside from their faith in Yahweh 
and offered sacrifices to Isis, and when his disciple 
Baruch despaired, "I fainted in my sighing, and I 
find no rest," Jeremiah answered, "Behold, that 
which I have built will I break down, and that which 
I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land. 
And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them 

In such a situation these words mean: It is enough 
that God is. Do not ask whether there is immortality; 
the question of whether God forgives is no longer 
important. Man no longer matters, his defiance as 
well as his concern for his own beatitude and eternity 
is extinguished. It is also impossible that the world 
should have a purpose susceptible of fulfilment, that 
it should endure in any form; for everything has been 
created out of nothing by God and is in His hand. 
When everything is lost, but one thing remains: God 
is. If a life in this world, even with faith in God's 
guidance, has failed, this overpowering reality still 
remains: God is. If man fully renounces himself and 



his aims, this reahty can be manifested to him as the 
only reality. But it does not manifest itself in advance, , 
it does not manifest itself abstractly, but descends into 
the existence of the world, and only here manifests 
itself at the limit. Jeremiah's words are hard words. 
They are no longer bound up with any will to histor- 
ical efficacy in the world, though such a will has 
preceded them throughout a lifetime and ultimately, 
through total failure, made them possible. They are 
simple words, free from imaginative flight, and they 
contain unfathomable truth, precisely because they 
are without finite content or any fixation in the world. 

The Greek philosophers expressed a similar thought 
in different terms. j 

At about 500 B.C. Xenophanes proclaimed: There j 
is only one God, resembling mortals neither in his i 
aspect nor in his thoughts. Plato conceived of the god- ji 
head — he called it the Good — as the source of all | 
knowledge. Not only is the knowable known in the i 
light of the godhead; it also derives its being from j 
the godhead which excels being both in rank and ; 
power. j 

The Greek philosophers understood that the many \ 
gods were decreed merely by custom, whereas in j 
nature there was only one God; that God is not seen j 
with our eyes, that he resembles no one and can be ; 
recognized in no image. ! 

God is conceived as cosmic reason or cosmic law, or ] 
as fate and providence, or as demiurge. : 

But this God of the Greek thinkers is a God originat- j 
ing in thought, not the living God of Jeremiah. In 1 
essence the two coincide. From this twofold root j 

40 I 


Western theology and philosophy have, in infinite 
modulations, reflected that God is and pondered on 
I what He is. 

The philosophers of our day seem to evade the 
question of whether God exists. They do not say that 
He exists nor do they deny His existence. But anyone 
engaging in philosophical thought must answer for 
his opinions. If a philosopher doubts, he must say 
why, else he cannot progress beyond the sceptical 
philosophy which asserts nothing at all, which affirms 
nothing and denies nothing. Or, limiting himself to 
determinate object knowledge, that is to scientific 
cognition, he ceases to philosophize, saying: It is best 
not to talk of what we do not know. 

The question of God is discussed on the basis of 
conflicting propositions which we shall examine. 

The theological proposition is: We can know of 
God only because He revealed Himself to certain 
men from the prophets to Jesus. Without revelation 
God can have no reality for man. God is accessible not 
through thought but through faith and obedience. 

But long before and far outside the world of 
biblical revelation there was certainty as to the reality 
of the godhead. And within the world of the Christian 
West many men have derived certainty of God 
without the guarantee of revelation. 

There is an old philosophical proposition opposed 
to this theological doctrine: We know of God be- 
cause His existence can be proved. The proofs for the 
existence of God form an impressive document. 



But if the proofs for the existence of God an 
construed as scientifically compelling proofs such asi 
we find in mathematics or the empirical sciences, they] 
are false. In this light Kant radically confuted themj 

Then came the reverse proposition: Since all 
proofs of the existence of God can be refuted, there is 
no God. 

This inference is false. For the nonexistence of God 
can be proved no more than his existence. The 
proofs and their confutations show us only that a! 
proved God would be no God but merely a thing in | 
the world. i 

The truth, as against all supposed proofs and refuta- i 
tions of the existence of God, seems to be this : The so- ; 
called proofs of the existence of God are funda- \ 
mentally no proofs at all, but methods of achieving j 
certainty through thought. All the proofs of the exist- 
ence of God and their variants that have been devised | 
through the centuries differ essentially from scientific , 
proofs. They are attempts to express the experience of ! 
man's ascent to God in terms of thought. There are ' 
roads of thought by which we come to limits at which 
the consciousness of God suddenly becomes a natural i 
presence. ; 

Let us consider a few examples: | 

The oldest of proofs is the cosmological proof. : 
From the existence of the cosmos (the Greek name for ' 
universe) we infer that God exists; from the world { 
process, in which everything is effect, we infer a last ■ 
cause; from motion the source of all motion; from the : 
accident of the particular the necessity of the whole. 

42 ; 


If by this syllogism we mean to infer the existence 
f one thing from the existence of another thing, as we 
{do for example in inferring from the existence of the 
side of the moon which faces us the existence of the 
other side which we never see, it is inapplicable. In 
this manner we can only infer the existence of things 
in the world from the existence of other things. The 
world as a whole is not an object, because we are 
always in it and we never confront the world as a 
whole. Hence we cannot, from the existence of the 
world as a whole, infer the existence of something 
other than the world. 

But this notion takes on a new meaning when it is no 
longer regarded as a proof. Then metaphorically, in 
the form of an inference, it expresses awareness of the 
mystery inherent in the existence of the world and 
of ourselves in it. If we venture the thought that there 
might be nothing, and ask with Schelling: Why is 
there something and not nothing? we find that our 
certainty of existence is such that though we cannot 
determine the reason for it we are led by it to the Com- 
prehensive, which by this very essence is and cannot 
not be, and through which everything else is. 

True, men have looked on the world as eternal and 
said that it existed out of itself and hence was identical 
with God. But this is not possible: 

Everything in the world which is beautiful, appro- 
priate, ordered, and embodies a certain perfection — 
the vast abundance of things that fill us with emotion 
in our immediate contemplation of nature — all this 
cannot be apprehended through any fully knowable 
worldly thing, through matter, for example. The design 




of organic life, the beauty of nature in all its forms, the 1 
order of the universe in general become increasingly p 
mysterious as our knowledge advances. 

But if from all this we infer that God, the benevolent 
creator, exists, we must call to mind all that is ugly, 
disordered, base in the world. And this gives rise to 
fundamental attitudes for which the world is alien, 
frightening, terrible, and it seems as plausible to infer 
the existence of the devil as of God. The mystery of 
transcendence is not thereby solved but merely grows 

But what clinches the matter is the imperfectibility 
of the world. The world is not finished, but in con- 
tinuous change ; our knowledge of the world cannot be 
completed, the world cannot be apprehended through 

Far from proving the existence of God, these so- 
called proofs mislead us into placing God within the 
real world, or second cosmos, which is as it were 
ascertained at the limits of the cosmos. Thus they 
obscure the idea of God. 

But they move us deeply when, leading through the 
concrete phenomena of the cosmos, they confront 
Nothingness and imperfectibility. For then they seem 
to admonish us not to content ourselves with the world 
as the sole meaning of our life in the world. 

Again and again it is brought home to us that God is 
not an object of knowledge, of compelling evidence. He 
cannot be experienced by the senses. He is invisible, 
He cannot be seen but only believed in. 

But whence comes this faith? Its source is not in the 
limits of worldly experience but in the freedom of man. 



The man who attains true awareness of his freedom 
gains certainty of God. Freedom and God are in- 
separable. Why? 

j This I know: in my freedom I am not through my- 
self, but am given to myself, for I can fail myself and I 
cannot force my freedom. Where I am authentically 
myself, I am certain that I am not through myself. The 
highest freedom is experienced in freedom from the 
world, and this freedom is a profound bond with 

We also call man's freedom his existence. My 
certainty of God has the force of my existence. I can 
have certainty of Him not as a content of science but as 
presence for existence. 

If certainty of freedom encompasses certainty of 
God's existence, there must be a connection between 
the negation of freedom and the negation of God. If I 
do not experience the miracle of .selfhood, I need no 
relation to God, I am content with the empirical 
existence of nature, many gods, demons. 

There is, on the other hand, a connection between 
the belief that there can be freedom without God and 
the deification of man. This is an illusory, arbitrary 
freedom, in which man's will is taken to be absolute 
and independent. I rely in the force of my will and in a 
defiant acceptance of death. But this delusion that I 
am through myself alone turns freedom into perplexity 
and emptiness. A savage drive for self-assertion turns 
to a despair, in which Kierkegaard's "desperate will to 
be oneself" and "desperate will not to be oneself" be- 
come one. 

God exists for me in the degree to which I in freedom 



authentically become myself. He does not exist as a 
scientific content but only as openness to existence. 

But the illumination of our existence as freedom does 
not prove the existence of God ; it merely points, one 
might say, to the area in which certainty of his ex- 
istence is possible. 

The thought that strives for compelling certainty 
cannot realize its aim in any proof of God's existence. 
But the failure of thought does not result in nothing- 
ness. It points to that which resolves into an in- 
exhaustible, forever-questioning. Comprehensive con- 
sciousness of God. 

God never becomes a tangible object in the world — 
and this means that man must not abandon his free- 
dom to the tangibilities, authorities, powers of 
the world; that he bears responsibility for himself, 
and must not evade this responsibility by renoun- 
cing freedom ostensibly for the sake of freedom. He 
must owe his decision and the road he chooses to 
himself. Kant has said that God's unfathomable 
wisdom is as admirable in what it gives us as in what it 
denies us. For if God's wisdom in its majesty were 
always before our eyes, if it were an absolute authority, 
speaking unequivocally in the world, we should be 
puppets of its will. But God in his wisdom wanted us to 
be free. 

Instead of the knowledge of God, which is unattain- 
able, we gain through philosophy a Comprehensive 
consciousness of God. 

"God is." The essential in this proposition is the 



reality to which it points. We do not encompass this 
reality in thinking the proposition; merely to think it 
leaves us empty. For it means nothing to the under- 
standing and to sensory experience. We apprehend its 
meaning only as we transcend, as we pass beyond the 
world of objects and through it discover authentic 
reality. Hence the climax and goal of our life is the 
point at which we ascertain authentic reality, that is, 

This reality is accessible to existence through the 
orientation toward God that lies at its source. Hence 
faith in God, springing as it does from the source, 
resists any mediation. This faith is not laid down in any 
definite articles of faith applicable to all men or in any 
historical reality which mediates between man and 
God and is the same for all men. The individual, 
always in his own historicity, stands rather in an 
immediate, independent relation to God that re- 
quires no intermediary. 

This historicity, which can be communicated and 
described, is in this form not absolute truth for all, and 
yet in its source it is absolutely true. 

God is reality, absolute, and cannot be encompassed 
by any of the historical manifestations through which 
He speaks to men. If He is, man as an individual must 
be able to apprehend Him directly. 

The reality of God and the immediacy of our his- 
torical relation to God exclude any universally com- 
pelling knowledge of God ; therefore what matters is 
not our knowledge of God but our attitude towards 
God. From time immemorial God has been conceived 
in empirical forms, including a personification after 



th€ image of man. And yet every such conception is atl? 
the same time in the nature of a veil. God is not whati? 
we may see with our eyes. 1 ' 

Our true attitude toward God has found its pro-u 
foundest expression in a few biblical injunctions: jj 

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or likeness. \\ 
This meant, to begin with, that because God is j. 
invisible man must not worship Him in statues, idols, | 
effigies. Gaining in depth, this tangible prohibition 
developed into the idea that God is not only invisible j 
but also inconceivable, unthinkable. No symbol or j 
metaphor can describe Him and none may take His 
place. All metaphorical representations of God without 
exception are myths, meaningful as such when under- j 
stood to be mere hints and parallels, but they become i 
superstitions when mistaken for the reality of God Him- ; 
self : 

Since every image conceals as much as it discloses, \ 
we come closest to God in the negation of images. But | 
even in the Bible this Old Testament commandment I 
was not fulfilled: the image of God's personality ! 
remained — His wrath and His love. His justice and His j 
mercy. It is a commandment that cannot be fulfilled. I 
Parmenides and Plato, with their speculative doctrines i 
of being, the Indian Brahman philosophers, the Chinese i 
Taoists attempted to apprehend without images the I 
suprapersonal, pure, intangible reality of God — but in I 
this they did not succeed. Human thought and human j 
vision cannot dispense with the image. And though in ! 
philosophical thinking sensation and object almost j 
vanished, perhaps ultimately some wisp of God's \ 
presence remains, with power to engender life. 

48 ^ 


Then, even after philosophy has rationally elucidated 
the deification of nature, the purely demonic, the 
aesthetic and superstitious, the specifically numinous, 
the deepest mystery is still not expelled. 

Perhaps we can give some paraphrase of this 
presence of God at the end of philosophical 

It is the silence in the face of being. Speech ceases in 
the presence of that which is lost to us when it becomes 

This ultimate can be attained only in the trans- 
cending of all thought. It cannot itself be transcended. 
Before it lies contentment with one's lot and the 
extinction of all desire. 

Here is a haven and yet no fixed home. Here is a 
repose that can sustain us amid the inevitable unrest of 
our wanderings in the world. 

Here thought must dissolve into radiance. Where 
there is no further question, there is also no answer. In 
the philosophical transcending of question and answer 
we arrive at the limit, at the stillness of being. 

Another biblical injunction runs: Thou shalt have no 
other gods before me. At first this commandment implied 
a rejection of alien gods. Gaining in depth, it became a 
simple and unfathomable idea: there is only one 
God. The life of the man who believes in the one 
and only God rests on a foundation entirely diflferent 
from that of a life with many gods. Concentration on 
the One gives to the decision of existence its real 
foundation. Infinite wealth implies diffusion; God's 
glory is not absolute unless it is grounded in the One. 
The quest for the One as the foundation of his life is an 




enduring problem for man, as actual as it waj 
thousands of years ago. 1 

A third biblical saying: Thy will be done. Thi 
fundamental attitude toward God means: Bow dowi 
before that which defies understanding, confident tha 
it is situated above and not below the understandable 
"Thy thoughts are not our thoughts, thy ways are noi 
our ways." 

Trust in this basic attitude makes possible an all 
encompassing sense of thankfulness, a wordlesSjl 
impersonal love. I 

Man stands before the godhead as the hidden Godij 
and can accept what is most terrible as His decision,! 
fully aware that in whatever finite form he expresses! 
this God it is spoken in human terms and hence false, j 

To sum up: Our attitude toward the godhead is! 
defined by the commandments "No image and no 
likeness," "No other god," and by the attitude of 
acceptance expressed in the words " Thy will be done." 

Reflection on God clarifies our faith. But to believe is i 
not to see. God remains in the distance and remains, 
question. To live by God does not mean to base one- 
self on calculable knowledge but to live as though we i 
staked our existence on the assumption that God is. ; 

To believe in God means to live by something which | 
is not in the world, except in the polyvalent language of- 
phenomena, which we call the hieroglyphs or symbols 
of transcendence. j 

The God of faith is the distant God, the hidden God, ; 
the indemonstrable God. j 

Hence I must recognize not only that I do not know ! 



jod but even that I do not know whether I beHeve. 
•"aith is no possession. It confers no secure knowledge, 
but it gives certainty in the practice of Hfe. 

Thus the beHever Hves in the enduring ambiguity of 
he objective, in enduring wiUingness to hear. He 
istens patiently and yet he is unswerving in his resolve, 
[n the cloak of weakness he is strong, he is open, though 
m his real life he is resolute. 

Reflection on God is typical of all significant 
philosophical thought: it does not bring secure know- 
ledge, but to authentic self-hood it gives a free area for 
decision; the whole emphasis is on love in the world, 
on the reading of the symbols of transcendence, on the 
depth and breadth of that which is illumined by reason. 

That is why all philosophical discourse is so in- 
complete. It calls for completion out of the being of 
him who hears it. 

Philosophy does not give, it can only awaken — it can 
remind, and help to secure and preserve. 

In it each of us understands what he actually knew 




In love, in battle, in pursuing lofty tasks, men often! 
act without regard for consequences, unconditionally. 
When a man acts unconditionally his life is not the 
ultimate, he subordinates it to something else. 

When we obey the unconditional imperative, our 
empirical existence becomes in a sense the raw material 
of the idea, of love, of a loyalty. It is encompassed in anj 
eternal aim, it is as it were consumed, and it is not 
allowed drift at random in the stream of life. Only ati 
the limit, in extreme situations, can the call of the 
unconditional lead to loss of life, to acceptance ofl 
inevitable death, while in bondage to the conditional 
we wish first, last, and at any price to preserve our 
physical existence. 

Men have, for example, risked their lives in a 
common struggle for a common life in the world. 
Solidarity was then the ultimate condition. 

Originally such communities were built upon trust 
but later they came to be based on the inspiring com- 
mand of an authority in which men believed, so that 
faith in this authority became a source of the absolute. 
This faith freed men from uncertainty, spared them the 
need to inquire for themselves. However, the uncon- 
ditional in this form was subject to a tacit condition, 
namely the success of the authority. The believer 
desired to live through his obedience. If the authority 



eased to be successful as a power, and men lost their 
faith in it, a ruinous emptiness arose. 

And the only escape from this emptiness is for man 
himself as an individual to win authentic being ^s the 
foundation of his decisions. 

This has happened in history when individuals 
staked their lives through obedience to an absolute 
imperative: they remained loyal where disloyalty 
would have destroyed everything, where a life saved 
through disloyalty would have been poisoned, where a 
betrayal of absolute being would have made a saved 
life wretched. 

The purest example is perhaps Socrates. Living in 
the lucidity of his reason, out of the Comprehensive of 
nonknowledge, he went his way unswervingly, un- 
deterred by the passions of anger, hatred, selfright- 
eousness ; he made no concession, refused to avail him- 
self of the opportunity for flight, and died happy, 
staking everything on his faith. 

Certain martyrs, like Thomas More, have displayed 
the purest moral energy in their faith. The martyrdom 
of some others is subject to question. To die for some- 
thing in order to bear witness to it is to give an aim to 
one's death, hence to make it impure. Where martyrs 
have actually been inspired by a longing to die, 
perhaps in imitation of Christ, by a death urge which 
not infrequently darkens the soul with symptoms of 
hysteria, the impurity is still greater. 

Rare are the philosophers who, without firm alle- 
giance to a community of faith, standing alone before 
God, have realized the maxim: To philosophize is to 
learn how to die. Seneca, for years awaiting his death 



sentence, overcame the desire to escape dictated by his 
understanding; in the end he did not betray himself by 
unworthy actions, and he preserved his composure 
when Nero demanded his death. Boethius died in- 
nocently, sentenced by a barbarian: he died philoso- 
phizing in full lucidity, turned toward authentic 
being. Bruno overcame his doubts and withdrew 
what concessions he had made, in the high resolve to 
stand fast for no purpose, even if it meant death at the 

Seneca, Boethius, Bruno were men with their 
weaknesses, their failures, men such as ourselves. They 
had to conquer themselves. And this is why they cam 
point the way for us. For saints after all are figures who) 
for us can live only in the twilight, or in the unreal 
light of myth, but cannot stand up under realistic 
scrutiny. The unconditional acts of which men as men 
were capable give us true encouragement, while the 
imaginary provides only empty edification. 

We have recalled historical examples of men who 
know how to die. Let us now attempt to elucidate the 
unconditional imperative. 

When I ask myself: What shall I do? I arrive at an 
answer by adducing finite aims and means by which to 
attain them. I must obtain food and for this work is 
needed. I must live with men in a community: here I 
am helped by certain rules of conduct. In every case an 
aim determines the means appropriate to it. 

But my basis for recognizing these aims lies either in 
some unquestioned practical interest or in utility. 
Empirical existence, however, is no ultimate end, 



because the questions remain: What kind of existence? 
and What for? 

Or else the imperative is grounded in an authority 
which I must obey because someone else has willed it 
br because "It is written." But such authority 
remains unquestioned and hence unexamined. 

All such imperatives are conditional. Foy they make 
"me dependent on something outside me, on practical 
aims or authority. Unconditional imperatives on the 
iother hand have their source in myself. Conditional ~ 
imperatives confront me as fixed but transient prin- 
ciples, by which I can outwardly sustain myself. 
Unconditional imperatives come from within me, 
sustaining me inwardly by that which in myself is not 
only myself. 

The unconditional imperative comes to me as the 
command of my authentic self to my mere empirical 
existence. I become aware of myself as of that which I 
myself am, because it is what I ought to be. This aware- 
ness is obscure at the beginning and lucid at the end 
of my unconditional action. When we become aware 
of the imperative our questioning ceases in the cer- 
tainty of being — though in temporal life there is at 
once a new beginning of questioning, and in a changed 
situation certainty must forever be gained anew. 

This imperative precedes every aim, it is that which 
determines all aims. Accordingly it is not an object of 
our will but its source. 

The unconditional is a foundation of action and 
hence not an object of knowledge but an element of 
faith. In so far as I know the reasons and aims of my 
action, I am in the finite, I am subject to conditions. 



Only when I live by something that can no longer b 
explained by object knowledge do I live by the un 

A few propositions may suggest the meaning of th( 
unconditional imperative. 

First: as opposed to passive acceptance of things a! 
they are, the unconditional attitude implies a decision, 
lucidly taken, out of an unfathomable depth, a deci- 
sion with which I myself am identical. What does this 

It means to partake in the eternal, in being 
Accordingly, it implies absolute reliability and loyalty, 
which derive not from nature but from our decision. 
The decision is arrived at only through lucidity which 
is the product of reflection. Expressed in psychological 
terms, the unconditional attitude does not lie in the 
momentary state of any man. Even though he may 
reveal overpowering energy in his momentary activity, 
it suddenly slackens, he grows forgetful and unreliable. 
Nor does the unconditional decision reside in the innate j 
character, for the character can be transformed in 
rebirth. Nor does it reside in what we call in mytholo- j 
gical terms a man's demon, for this demon is without j 
loyalty. Overpowering as it may be, no mode of j 
passion, of vital will, of self-assertion, is uncon- 
ditional in the moment; all are relative and hence 

Thus the unconditional demands an existential 
decision that has passed through reflection. This 
means that it does not arise from any natural state but 
out of freedom, which cannot help being what it is, 



ot because of any natural law but because of its 
t)undation in transcendence. 

It is the unconditional which decides the ultimate 
Dasis of a man's life, which determines whether it is 
fiignificant or meaningless. The unconditional is 
lidden, only in extreme situations does it by silent 
decision determine a man's road; it is never positively 
idemonstrable, though it always sustains life through 
sxistence and can be infinitely elucidated. 
■ Just as trees sink their roots deeply and grow high in 
the air, so is the fulfilled man rooted in the uncon- 
ditional; all others are like shrubs which can be pulled 
up and transplanted, which are interchangeable 
land in the mass indestructible. But this metaphor is 
inappropriate, since man arrives at his unconditional 
foundation not by degrees but by a leap into another 

i Second: The unconditional imperative has reaHty 
!in the man who follows it in faith and awareness. 
! It cannot be proved, cannot be shown to exist 
empirically in the world — historical proofs are mere 
intimations. What we know is always conditional. 
The unconditional within us has no existence if we 
apply the yardstick of demonstrable knowledge. A 
demonstrated unconditional is merely a powerful 
force, a fanaticism, a frenzy or a madness. If it is asked 
whether there is any authentic unconditional in the 
world, the sceptical answer carries universal force of 

For example: it is doubtful whether there is un- 
conditional love, which is rooted in the eternal founda- 
tion and does not merely consist in human inclination, 



passion, habit, and fidelity to a promise. The possibility 
of authentic communication in loving contest can b(i 
denied. That which is demonstrable is by that samf 
token not unconditional. 

Third: The unconditional is timeless in time. 

The unconditional imperative is not given like 
empirical existence. It grows within man in time. Only 
when man conquers himself and goes where his 
decision unerringly leads him does the unconditional 
come into its own. Steadfastness of purpose, abstract 
singlemindedness, mere perseverance in man are noti 
convincing signs that he lives by the unconditional 

In our temporal existence the unconditional attitude! 
is manifested in the experience of extreme situations! 
and in situations when we are in danger of becoming ; 
untrue to ourselves. I 

But the unconditional itself is never entirely tem- 
poral. Whenever it may be, it also cuts across time. 
Regardless of when it is conquered, it is eternal, 
existing in every new moment through recurrent 
rebirth from the source. Hence: Where a development 
in time seems to have given us possession of it, all can 
still be betrayed in a moment. Conversely, where a man's 
past seems to be mere factuahty, weighing him down 
under endless contingencies to the point of annihila- 
tion, he can nevertheless at any moment begin as it 
were from the beginning through sudden awareness of 
the unconditional. 

These propositions, it is true, suggest the meaning of' 
the unconditional imperative but do not elucidate its 



content, which becomes clear only through the 
ntithesis of good and evil. 

. In heeding the command of the unconditional we 
ffect a choice. A decision becomes the substance of the 
nan. He has chosen what he understands as the good 
n the decision between good and evil. 
. Good and evil are differentiated on three levels. 

I. We regard as evil the immediate and un- 
estrained surrender to passions and sensual impulses, 
,0 the pleasure and happiness of this world, to em- 
pirical existence as such; in short, evil is the life of the 
nan who remains in the sphere of the contingent, who 
nerely lives from day to day like an animal, well or 
padly, in the unrest of change— a life in which there is 

110 decision. 
Good in contradistinction is the life of the man who 
does not reject the happiness of this world but sub- 
Drdinates it to the morally admissible, seen as the 
universal law of just action. This morally admissible 
is the absolute. 

< 2. True evil, as distinguished from mere weakness, 
[which surrenders to the natural bent, consists in what 
Kant called perversion: I do good only if it does me no 
harm or does not cost me too much ; or stated abstractly : 
although I will the unconditional embodied in the 
moral imperative, I follow the law of the good only in so 
far as it is compatible with undisturbed sensual pleasure ; 
only on this condition, and in no unconditional sense, 
do I wish to be good. This pseudo-virtue might be 
called a luxury of fortunate circumstances in which I 
can afford to be good. In the case of conflict between 
moral imperative and my vital interest, I may, 




according to the magnitude of this interest, be secret!'' 
capable of any villainy. In order to avert my ow 
death, I may obey orders to commit murder. Or I ma 
allow my favoured position which saves me from coe 
flict to blind me to my evil. 

It is good, in contradistinction, to lift oneself out c 
this condition of contingency, wherein the uncondi 
tional is subordinated to the requirements of vita 
happiness, and return to an authentic life in th( 
unconditional. This is a conversion from continuou 
self betrayal and impurity of motives to the seriousnes 
of the unconditional, 

3. On this level, evil is only the will to evil — the wil 
to destruction as such, the urge to inflict torture 
cruelty, annihilation, the nihilistic will to ruin every-l 
thing that is and has value. I 

Good, in contradistinction, is the unconditional, 
which is love and hence the will to reality. '\ 

Let us compare these three levels. 
On the first level, the relation between good and evil 
is moral : the question is whether our natural inclina- 
tions are governed by a will subservient to moral laws. 
In Kant's words, duty is opposed to inclination. 

On the second level, the relation is ethical: the 
essential is the authenticity of our motives. The purity 
of the unconditional is opposed to an impurity which 
consists in the reversal of the relation of contingency, 
m which the unconditional is made contingent oni 
practical conditions. 

On the third level, the relation becomes meta- 
physical: here the essential lies in the motives them- 
selves. Love is opposed to hate. Love impels to being, 



late to nonbeing. Love grows in bond with trans- 
cendence ; hate, severed from transcendence, dwindles 
nto the abstract punctuaHty of the ego. Love works as 
I quiet building in the world; hate as a loud catas- 
rophe, submerging being in empirical existence and 
destroying empirical existence itself. 

On each level an alternative is revealed, a decision 
,s called for, A man can only want one thing or the 
bther, if he is authentic. He follows inclination or duty, 
he lives in perversion or in purity of motive, he lives 
out of hate or out of love. But he can fail to decide. 
Instead of deciding, we vacillate and stumble through 
hfe, combine the one with the other and even accept 
such a state of things as a necessary contradiction. 
iThis indecision is in itself evil. Man awakens only 
when he distinguishes between good and evil. He 
becomes himself when he decides which way he is 
going and acts accordingly. We must all continuously 
recapture ourselves from indecision. We are so little 
capable of fulfilling ourselves in goodness that the very 
force of the passions that drive us headlong through 
life is indispensable to the lucidity of duty; when we 
really love we cannot help hating whatever threatens 
our love ; and it is precisely when we feel certain that 
our motives are pure that we succumb to the perver- 
sion of impurity. 

The decision has its special character on each of the 
three levels. Morally, man seeks to base his decision on 
thought. Ethically, he rehabilitates himself from 
perversion through a rebirth of his good will. Meta- 
physically, he achieves awareness of being given to 
himself in his ability to love. He chooses the right, his 



motives become authentic, he Hves out of love. Onh 
when the three levels become one is the unconditiona 

To live out of love seems to include all the rest. Trud 
love gives certainty regarding the ethical truth of iti 
acts. St. Augustine says: Love and do what thou wilt 
But it is impossible for us men to live solely by love, 
this force of the highest level, for we fall constantl)lp! 
into errors and misunderstandings. Hence we musli 
not rely blindly in our love at every moment but must 
elucidate it. And for the same reason we finite beings 
need the discipline by which we conquer our passions, 
and because of the impurity of our motives we require 
distrust of ourselves. When we feel sure of ourselves, 
that is precisely when we are going astray. 

Only the unconditional character of the good fills 
mere duties with content, purifies our ethical motives, 
dissolves the destructive will of hatred. 

But the foundation of love, in which the uncondi- 
tional is grounded, is identical with the will to 
authentic reality. I want what I love to be. And I 
cannot perceive what authentically is without loving 




iVnAT IS MAN? Physiology studies him as body, 
psychology as soul, sociology as a social being. We 
tnow of man as nature, which we investigate as we do 
;he nature of other living creatures, and as history, 
A^hich we know by the critical sifting of tradition, by an 
understanding of the purpose pursued by man in his 
[houghts and actions, and by the elucidation of events 
Dn the basis of motives, situations, natural realities. 
Our study of man has brought us many kinds 
of knowledge but not the knowledge of man as a 

The question rises : Can man be fully apprehended 
in that which is knowable concerning him? Or is there 
something above this, namely, freedom, which evades 
all object knowledge but is always present in him as 

The truth is that man is accessible to himself in two 
ways: as object of inquiry, and as existence endowed 
with a freedom that is inaccessible to inquiry. In the 
one case man is conceived as object, in the other as the 
nonobject which man is and of which he becomes 
aware when he achieves authentic awareness of himself. 
We cannot exhaust man's being in knowledge of him, 
we can experience it only in the primal source of our 
thought and action. Man is fundamentally more than 
he can know about himself. 



We are conscious of our freedom when we re' 
cognize imperatives addressed to us. It is up to J 
whether we carry them out or evade them. We cannoi 
seriously deny that we make a decision, by which w<' 
decide concerning ourselves, and that we are re- 

No one who attempts to deny this can logicalh! 
confront other men with an imperative. Once ar 
accused man in court said he was not to blame because 
he was born that way and could not help doing as he 
' A T ''°''^'^ accordingly not be held responsible- 
and the good-humoured judge repHed that it might be 
just as reasonable to say that the judge who sen- 
tenced him could do no differently since that was how 
he was and he could not help acting in accordance with 
the laws. 

Once we have achieved awareness of our freedom we 
may take a second step toward the apprehension of 
ourselves: Man is a being who exists in relation to 
Lrod. What does this mean? 

We did not create ourselves. Each man can think 
that he might possibly not have been. This we have in 
common with the animals. But at the same time where 
m our freedom we decide through ourselves and are 
not automatically subordinated to a natural law we 
are not through ourselves but by virtue of being given 
to ourselves in our freedom. If we do not love, we do 
not know what we should do, we cannot force our 
freedom. When we decide freely and conceive of our 
lives as meamngful, we know that we do not owe 
ourselves to ourselves. At the summit of freedom, upon 



i^hich our activity seems necessary to us, not through 
be outward constraint of an inexorable process of 
natural law but as the inner consent that does not will 
(therwise, we are aware of ourselves as freely given to :_ 
)urselves by transcendence. The more authentically 
jiiree a man is, the greater his certainty of God. When 
[ am authentically free, I am certain that I am not 
ree through myself. 

We men are never adequate to ourselves. We press 
)eyond, and we ourselves grow with the depth of our 
consciousness of God, through which at the same time 
ve apprehend our insignificance. 

Man's relation to God is not a quality given by 
lature. Because it only is in conjunction with freedom, 
t awakens in the individual only when from his mere 

Idtal assertion of life he takes the leap to his self, that is, '<^i 
o the area where, authentically free from the world, 
le becomes fully open to the world, where he can be 
ndependent of the world, because he lives in bond 
ivith God. God is for me in the degree to which I 
authentically exist. 

Once again I repeat: Man as an empirical existent 
in the world is a knowable object. For example: 
ethnology apprehends him in diverse racial types, 
psychoanalysis apprehends him in his unconscious and 
its workings, Marxism as a living creature producing 
by his labour, who by production dominates nature 
and achieves social progress and who can ostensibly 
achieve perfection in both these respects. Yet all such 
departments of knowledge apprehend something about 
man, some process which actually takes place, but 



never man as a whole. When these methods of inquiry 
lay claim to absolute knowledge of the whole man — i 
and this they have all done — they lose sight of the real 
man and go far toward extinguishing their proponents' 
consciousness of man and even their own humanity, 
the humanity which is freedom and relation to God. { 
The study of man is of supreme interest, and if j 
pursued in a spirit of scientific criticism, rewarding. If' 
this is done, we know methodically what and how and ! 
within what limits we know a thing and how little we 
know, in terms of what is possible, and how radically, 
inaccessible to this knowledge authentic humanity/ 
remains. And we avert the danger of obscuring man by 
pseudo-knowledge of him. 

Once we know the limits of knowledge, we shall Ij 
entrust ourselves all the more clearly to the guidance 
which freedom itself offers to our freedom, if it is 
oriented toward God. 

This is the great question of humanity: Whence 
does man obtain guidance? For it is certain that his 
life does not flow along like that of the animals from 
generation to generation, constantly repeating itself 
in accordance with natural law; man's freedom opens 
up to him, along with the uncertainty of his being, an 
opportunity to become that which he can authentically 
be. It is given to man to work in freedom upon his 
empirical existence as upon a material. Hence man 
alone has a history, that is, he does not live only by 
his biological heritage but also by tradition. Man's 
life is not merely a natural process. And his freedom 
calls for guidance. 



We shall not discuss here the cases in which the 
power of man over man becomes a substitute for this 
guidance. What we have in mind is the ultimate 
guidance of man. The thesis of philosophical faith 
is: Man can live by God's guidance. What does this 

We believe that we have in the unconditional 
imperative an intimation of God's guidance. But how 
is this possible when God is not corporeal, when there 
is no unmistakable form in which he exists as God? 
If God lends guidance, how does man know what God 
wills? Is there an encounter between man and God? 
And if so, how does it occur? 

We have autobiographical records telling us how, 
in men faced by critical problems, long doubt has 
suddenly given way to certainty. This certainty is the 
freedom to act after perplexity and vacillation. But 
the freer man knows himself to be in tliis lucid 
certainty, the more aware he becomes of the trans- 
cendence through which he is. 

Kierkegaard reflected each day upon God's guid- 
ance, and in such a way that he knew himself to be 
always in God's hand : through that which he did and 
that which happened to him in the world he heard 
God and yet in everything he heard he found many 
meanings. The guidance he received was not tangible, 
it provided no clear command; it was guidance 
through freedom itself, which knows decision because 
it knows itself rooted in the transcendent foundation. 

Guidance through transcendence is different from 
any guidance in the world, for God's guidance is of 
only one kind. It is given through freedom itself. 



The voice of God lies in the self-awareness that dawns • 
in the individual, when he is open to everything that! 
comes to him from his tradition and environment. 

The medium in which man is guided is his judg 
ment regarding his own actions. This judgment! 
restrains or impels, corrects or confirms. The voice of ( 
God as judgment regarding man's actions has no 
other expression in time than in this judgment of man 
himself with regard to his emotions, motives, actions. 
In the free and forthright self-awareness of judgment, 
in self-accusation, in self-affirmation man indirectly! 
finds God's judgment, which is never definitive and i 
always equivocal. 

Consequently, human judgment is in error from the 
outset when man expects to find in it God's final 
word, upon which he can absolutely rely. We must 
mercilessly unmask the self-will that lies in our moral 
self-satisfaction and self-righteousness. 

Actually no man can ever be fully and definitively 
satisfied with himself; he cannot be entirely self- 
contained in his judgment of himself. He requires the 
judgment of his fellow men concerning his actions. 
He is particularly sensitive to the judgment of those he 
respects. He is less moved by that of the average man 
and the crowd, of inert individualized institutions, but 
even here he is not indifferent. Yet the judgment that 
is ultimately decisive for him is not even that of the 
men he respects, although this is the only judgment 
accessible in the world ; only the judgment ojf God can 
be decisive. 

The individual is never entirely independent in his 
judgment of himself. He always attaches importance 



o the judgment of another. Even the primitive hero, 
jjjoing to his death in unswerving fortitude, has in 
[nind the judgment of other men: undying fame is the 
consolation of the dying heroes of the Eddas. 

But there is also a truly solitary heroism, which is 
^ot based on the community and has no eye to fame. 
This authentic independence is sustained perhaps by 
he inner harmony of a well-favoured nature, it 
iraws perhaps unconsciously from the historical 
radition of a remembered community, yet its 
;onsc.iousness finds nothing in the present world to 
vhich it can hold. But if this heroism does not sink 
nto nothingness, it may be presumed to have deep 
oots in authentic being, and this, stated explicitly, 
vould be the judgment of God rather than of men. 

Though the truth of the judgment by which man is 

guided is manifested only through self-conviction, 

his takes two forms: the universal imperative and the 

lisiorical injunction. 

I The universal ethical imperatives carry intuitive 

ponviction. Ever since the ten commandments they 

[lave been a form of God's presence. These imperatives 

ban indeed be recognized and followed without 

faith in God, by a drastic limitation of their meaning 

CO what man can do out of himself. But whole- 

learted obedience to the ethical commandment 

that is clearly heard in freedom is usually bound 

Lip with the perception of transcendence precisely in 

this freedom. 

However, action in concrete situations cannot 

adequately be derived from universal commandments 



and prohibitions. In every historically actual situation!, 
guidance lies in an immediate necessity-of-doing-so, 
which cannot be derived. But what the individual in 
this case perceives as his duty remains questionable, 
however certain he may be of it in his own mind. The 
very nature of this hearkening to God's guidance 
implies the risk of error, hence humility. This excludes 
reliance on our certainty, forbids us to generalize our 
own acts as an imperative for all, and bars the way to 
fanaticism. Even the purest clarity as to the road we 
have seen under God's guidance must not therefore 
give rise to a certainty that this is the only true roadj 
for all. 

For it is always possible that everything will look; 
entirely different later. In all lucidity we can choose a 
false road. Even the certainty of decision, in so far as 
it is manifested in the world, must retain a certain 
element of suspension. For the most devastating threat 
to truth in the world is the overweening claim to the 
absolutely true. In the certainty of the moment the 
humility of the enduring question is indispensable. 

Only in retrospect are we filled with the wonder of 
an unfathomable guidance. But even here it carries 
no certainty, God's guidance cannot be made into a{ 
possession. | 

Psychologically speaking, the voice of God can be] 
heard only in sublime moments. It is out of suchi 
moments and toward such moments that we live. 

If man experiences guidance through transcendence, „ 
is transcendence real for him? What is his relation to| 



Even in the bareness of abstraction, our relation to 
transcendence can take on a crucial seriousness. But as 
men in our world we seek support for our certainty in 
the concrete. Man's supreme achievement in this 
world is communication from personality to person- 
ality. Accordingly, our relation to transcendence, if 
we may speak in paradox, becomes sensibly present 
in our encounter with the personal God. The godhead 
is drawn to us in its aspect of personaHty, while at the 
same time we raise ourselves to the level of beings 
capable of speaking with this God. 

In the world, those powers which have flung us to 
the ground strive to dominate us : fear of the future, 
anxious attachment to present possessions, care in the 
face of dire possibilities. Opposing them man can 
perhaps in the face of death gain a confidence which 
will enable him, even in the most extreme, inexplicable, 
meaningless situation, to die in peace. 

Trust in the foundation of being can manifest 
itself as disinterested gratitude, as peace in the belief 
in God's being. 

In life, freedom gives us a sense of receiving help 
from transcendence. 

For polytheism, helpers and adversaries become 
gods and demons. "A god did it" expresses the poly- 
theist's consciousness of events and his own actions, 
which are thereby hallowed and endowed with 
significance but at the same time dispersed into 
innumerable vital and spiritual powers, conceived as 

As against this, God's help, in the authentic self- 
hood that knows itself to be radically dependent, 



is the help of the One. If God is, there are no! 

Often God's help is narrowed to a finite content an 
thus lost. As for example when prayer — as encounter 1 
with the invisible God — degenerates from quiet'! 
contemplation tending towards silence, succumbs to 
the passion of seeking the hand of the personal God, 
and becomes an invocation of this God for practical 

To the man who sees through the opaqueness of 
life God sends all possibilities, including the situations 
of hopeless annihilation. Then every situation be- 
comes a task for man's freedom, and in this task he 
stands, grows, and falls. The task, however, cannot be 
adequately defined as pursuit of earthly happiness 
but can only be understood clearly through tran- 
scendence, this sole reality, and the unconditional 
commandment of love that is manifested in it, which, 
infinitely open by virtue of its reason, sees what is and 
reads the symbols of transcendence in the realities of 
the world. 

Priests, it is true, accuse the individual who orients 
himself to God through philosophy of arrogance and 
self-will. They demand obedience to the revealed God. 
In reply to them this may be said: the individual 
engaged in philosophical thought, if he has drawn a 
decision from the primal source, believes that he is 
obeying God, not with any objective guarantee that 
he knows God's will but rather as a continuous 
venture. God works through the free decisions of the 



The priests mistake for obedience to God, obedience 
;o such worldly authorities as the Church, books, and 
aws, which they look upon as direct revelation. 

Finally, a true coincidence between obedience to 
)bjective authorities in the world and to the originally 
xperienced will of God is possible. But such coincid- 
;nce must be conquered. 

Those who invoke the will of God as experienced 
|by the individual in opposition to objective authorities 
are misled into an arbitrary refusal to test their 
experience by the universal and social. But those who 
conversely invoke objective authority against the will 
of God as experienced by the individual are beguiled 
into evasion of the venture to obey God even against 
the objective authorities, by listening to His will as it 
speaks from reality itself 

There is an element of helplessness in grasping at 
the support of reliable laws and authoritative com- 
mands. In contradistinction, there is a soaring 
energy in the individual responsibility of listening to 
the whole of reality. 

A man's humanity depends on how deeply he gains 
guidance through this listening. 

To be a man is to become a man. 



We gall reality that which is present to 
us in practice, that which in our deaHngs with things, 
with living creatures, and with men is resistance or 
becomes matter. We learn to know reality through our 
daily association with people, through the handling of 
tools, through technical knowledge, through contact 
with organized bodies of men. 

That which is encountered in practice is clarified by 
scientific knowledge, and as knowledge of reality 
made available for n-ew practice. 

But by its very nature the knowledge of reality 
transcends the immediate interests of practical life. 
Practice, which is always at the same time struggle, 
mastery of resistance, is only one of its sources. Man 
wants to know what is real, regardless of any practical 
interest. A profounder source of the sciences is pure, 
devoted contemplation, lucid passion, a listening 
for the world's answers. 

Knowledge becomes scientific through method, a 
systematic unity is ascertained in what is known ; the 
scientist looks beyond the multiple and disparate to 
unifying principles. 

This knowledge of reality seems to find completion 
in the world system. The world system purports to 
disclose reality as a whole in one world, a cosmos, 



every part of which is related to every other part. 
Though it has always been recognized that such a 
system must be imperfect and will require constant 
correction, nevertheless the world system has been 
regarded as a product of knowledge, and in principle 
as the form in which being as total reality becomes 
accessible to us. The world system is expected to 
encompass the whole of coherent knowledge. World 
systems are as old as human knowledge; and 
thinkers at all times have striven for v/orld systems 
as a means of attaining a unified awareness of the 

I Now it is significant that the search for an all- 
embracing world system, in which the universe 
becomes a self-contained whole, this so self-evident 
striving for a total world view, is based on a funda- 
mental fallacy which has only been understood in 
recent times. 

For scientific critique teaches us not only that every 
world system up to now has collapsed under the weight 
of its own contradictions but that the systematic 
unities of knowledge which are indeed the goal of 
science have been diverse and sprung from essentially 
different roots. This becomes increasingly evident 
with the advance of science. Even as the unities 
become more universal — particularly in physics — the 
more marked become the cleavages between the 
physical world, the world of life, the world of the soul, 
the world of the mind. These worlds are indeed con- 
nected. They are arranged in an order of develop- 
ment; the reality of the later stage presupposes that of 
the earlier, while the reality of the earlier seems able 



to Stand without that of the later; for example, there 
can be no life without matter but there can be matter 
without life. Vain attempts have been made to derive* 
the later stage from the earlier, but always the gap 
becomes more evident. The one totality in the world, 
to which all the unities susceptible of exploration by i 
knowledge belong, is itself no unity such as might be 1 
subsumed in an all-embracing theory, or which as j 
idea might serve as a beacon for scientific inquiry, i 
There is no world system but only a systematization of 
the sciences. 

World systems are always a particular sphere of 
knowledge, erroneously absolutized and universalized. 
Different scientific ideas give rise to special per- 
spectives. Every world system is a segment taken out 
of the world. The world itself cannot become a system. 
All "scientific cosmologies" have been mythical 
cosmologies, built on scientific methods and scant 
remnants of myth. 

The world is no object, we are always in the world, 
we confront objects in it but never have the world 
itself as an object. Far as our horizons of methodical 
inquiry extend, particularly in our astronomical 
conceptions of the nebulae, of which our Galaxy, 
with its billions of suns, is only one among millions, and 
in the mathematical conception of universal matter, 
all that we see here is aspects of phenomena and 
not the foundation of things, not the universe as 
a whole. 

The universe is not self-contained. It cannot be 
explained out of itself, but in it one thing can be 
explained by another ad infinitum. No one knows to 



what limits future research may yet attain, what 
i^abysses will still open before it. 

A critical approach to science calls for the abandon- 
ment of world systems, which is also a prerequisite to 
any philosophical apperception of being. True, the 
philosophical quest of being demands a familiarity 
;with every branch of scientific inquiry. But it seems to 
be the hidden aim of science to attain through inquiry 
to a hmit at which the area of nonknowledge is opened 
to the most lucid knowledge. For only fulfilled 
knowledge can lead to authentic nonknowledge. 
Then authentic being is revealed not in any world 
system built on knowledge but in fulfilled non- 
knowledge, which can be achieved only through 
scientific cognition, not without it and not before it. 
It is the supreme striving of knowledge to reach the 
point where cognition fails. For our consciousness of 
being finds an indispensable source in nonknowledge, 
but only in fulfilled, conquered nonknowledge. 

We approach the reality of the world from a dif- 
ferent angle. Scientific knowledge can be included in 
the general proposition: All knowledge is interpreta- 
tion. The method we apply to the study of texts may 
be taken as a parallel to our study of being. And the 
analogy is not accidental. 

For w^e possess being only in its interpretations. To 
speak of it is to interpret it, and only that which is 
apprehended in speech falls under the head of the 
knowable. But even in the prephilosophic stage the 
language of men's practical dealings with things 



contains an interpretation of being; being is always 
defined in reference to sometliing else. Being is for us 
only in an interpretive context. Being and the know- 
ledge of being, the existent and what we say of it, are 
accordingly a texture of diverse interpretations. All 
being is for us an interpretation. 

Interpretation differentiates between something 
that is and something which it means, for example, 
between the sign and what it stands for. If being is 
taken as that which is to be interpreted, it would 
seem that we must differentiate in the same way: 
interpretation concerns something other than itself; 
what confronts us in interpretation is being itself. 
But our attempted differentiation is not success- 
ful. For nothing enduring remains, nothing purely 
knowable, which need only be interpreted and is not 
itself interpretation. Whatever we know is only a 
beam of light cast by our interpretation into being, 
or, we might say, the capture of an opportunity for 
interpretation. The power to make possible all these 
interpretations must lie in the very nature of being as 
a whole. 

But the interpretation is not arbitrary. If it is 
sound, it has an objective character. Being compels 
these interpretations. True, all modes of being are 
for us modes of interpretation, but they are also 
modes of necessary interpretation. Consequently, the 
doctrine of the categories as structures of being sees the 
modes of being as modes of interpretation, thus for 
example breaking down the "objective" categories 
into identity, relation, cause and effect, freedom or 
expression, etc. 



To US all being in its interpretations is like a reflec- 
tion spreading out in all directions. 

The modes of reality are also modes of interpreta- 
tion. Interpretation implies that the text is not in 
itself the reality of being but a mode in which being is 
manifested. Absolute reality cannot be apprehended 
by any interpretation. It is always a perversion of our 
knowledge when the content of an interpretation is 
looked upon as reality itself. 

Fundamentally we can express the reality of the 
world as the phenomenality of empirical existence. 
Everything we have said thus far: that there is an 
element of suspension in all modes of reality; that 
world systems represent merely relative perspectives; 
that knowledge has the character of interpretation; 
that being is manifested in the dichotomy of subject 
and object — our whole characterization of the know- 
ledge to which man can attain — implies that objects 
are mere appearances; no being that we know is 
being in itself and as a whole. The phenomenality of 
the empirical world was made fully clear by Kant. 
Though it is not subject to compelling knowledge, 
because it cannot be perceived objectively but only 
by a transcending, nevertheless it imposes itself on 
every intellect that is capable of transcendence. And 
then it does not add a new particular knowledge to 
the knowledges we had before, but effects a shift in 
our whole consciousness of being. Hence the sudden 
but enduring light which is kindled in the phil- 
osophical approach to the reahty of the world. If the 
light is not kindled, the propositions of philosophy 



remain unfulfilled and hence fundamentally not 

It is not only the absolute world systems that are: 
gone. The world is not self-contained and for oun 
knowledge it breaks down into diverse perspectives, 
because it cannot be reduced to a single principle. 
The reality of the world as a whole is no object of; 

In the light of what we have said of God and exist- 
ence, we may sum up our experience of the world in 
the proposition: The reality of the world subsists 
ephemerally between God and existence. 

Everyday life seems to teach us the contrary : that we 
men take the world or something in the world as an 
absolute. And of the man who has made so many 
things the ultimate content of his existence we may 
say with Luther: that which you hold to, upon which 
you stake your existence, that is truly your God. Man 
cannot help taking something as an absolute, whether 
willingly and knowingly, whether accidentally and 
fitfully or resolutely and steadfastly. Man has a kind of 
home in the absolute. He cannot evade it. In that home 
he must live. 

History down through the centuries reveals awe- 
inspiring figures of men who have transcended the 
world. Indian ascetics, certain monks in China and the 
West, left the world in order to partake of the absolute 
in worldless meditation. It was as though the world had 
vanished; being — from the viewpoint of the world, 
nothingness — was everything. 

Chinese mystics freed themselves from the toils of 



vorldly desire and rose to heights of pure contempla- 
ion in which the world became speech, transparent, 
;phemeral manifestation of the Eternal, infinite 
)mnipresence of its law. For them, time was dissolved 
n eternity, and the world spoke to them in the eternal 

There have been Western scientists, philosophers, 
3oets, and some few men of action who have passed 
:hrough the world as though, despite their firm attach- 
nent to the world, they retained permanent roots out- 
lide it. Coming from a distant home, they found them- 
lelves and things in the world, and while remaining 
:lose to things, they transcended the temporal mani- 
iestation in favour of their memory of the eternal. 

We others, who are chained to the world, who have 
not found that foundation in being with the clear 
:ertainty of practical life and knowledge, tend to assess 
the world: 

In happy situations, the magic of worldly fulfilment 
beguiles us into seeing the world as a harmony of 
being. But when we experience evil and horror and 
despair in the face of this reality, we rebel. To the 
harmony of being we defiantly juxtapose nihilism in 
the proposition : All is absurdity. 

Honesty must recognize the untruth both in the 
ideas of harmony of being and nihilistic chaos. Both 
embody a total judgment and that total judgment 
concerning the world and things rests upon inade- 
quate knowledge. It is incumbent upon man to reject 
the fixation of conflicting total judgments, in lasting 
willingness to listen to event, destiny, and his own acts 



in the temporal course of his hfe. This willingnesi 
imphes two fundamental experiences : 

First the experience of God's absolute transcendence 
over the world: the hidden God recedes farther and 
farther into the distance if I attempt to seize and 
apprehend Him universally and forever; He is in 
calculably near through the absolutely historical! 
form of His speech in a situation which is always 

Second, the experience of God's speech in the 
world: the world is not in itself, but in it God speaks, 
always with many meanings, and this speech can only 
become clear historically in the existential moment and 
cannot be generalized. 

Freedom for being does not see the ultimate in the 
world as such. In the world eternal being and temporal! 
manifestation meet. 

Yet we do not experience eternal being outside ofl 
that which is empirically manifested to us in time., 
Since that which is for us must be manifested in the 
temporality of the world, there can be no direct 
knowledge of God and existence. There can only 
be faith. 

The principles of faith — God is ; there is an uncon- 
ditional imperative; man is finite and imperfectible ; 
man can live in God's guidance — enable us to sense 
the truth only in so far as they embody their fulfilment 
in the world as speech of God. If, as though passing the 
world by, God should directly approach existence, the 
event would be incommunicable. The truth of all 
universal principles speaks in the form of a tradition 



nd of a particularity acquired in life; these are the 
brms in which the individual consciousness has 
iwakened to the truth : our parents told us so. There is 
I vast historical depth in such formulas as "for Thy 
floly name's sake," "immortality," "love." 

As principles of faith become more universal they 

lose their historicity. They rise to the level of pure 

ibstraction. But with such abstractions alone no man 

"zan live; where concrete fulfilment is lacking they 

(retain only a minimal value as guides to memory and 

[hope. They have at the same time a cleansing power: 

they free us from the fetters of pure materiality and 

from superstitious narrowness, helping us to adapt the 

great tradition to present realization. 

Unlimited devotion to God is the authentic mode of 
existence. That to which I devote myself in the world, 
fco the point of staking my life, must be constantly tested 
in relation to God, under the condition of God's will in 
jwhich we believe. For in blind devotion man heedlessly 
serves the power which is over him only factually and 
which he does not elucidate, and he may even serve 
the "devil" through his failure to see, question, think. 

In devotion to reality in the world — the indispens- 
able medium of devotion to God — grows selfhood, 
which at the same time asserts itself in that to which it is 
devoted. But if all empirical existence has been reduced 
to reality, family, people, profession, state, world, and 
if this reality fails, then we can conquer the despair of 
nothingness only through the self-assertion which 
transcends the reahty of the world, which stands alone 
before God and exists out of God. Only in devotion to 



God and not to the world is this selfhood granted anr 
received as the freedom to assert it in the world. 

The ephemeral subsistence of the world between Goc 
and existence is the burden of a myth which — ii 
biblical categories — conceives the world as the mani 
festation of a transcendent history : from the creatioi 
through the fall of man and the redemption to the enc 
of the world and the resurrection of all things. In thi; 
myth the world does not exist out of itself but is i 
passing stage in a transcendent process. The world ii 
transient, but the reality in this transience is God anc 
existence. The eternal is manifested in the time of the 
world. It is thus that man as an individual has know- 
ledge of himself. And in this manifestation of the 
eternal there lies a paradox: for in it that which is 
eternal as such is once again decided. 




We have stated the principles of philosophical 
faith: God is; there is an unconditional imperative; 
man is finite and imperfectible; man can live in God's 
guidance; the reality of the world subsists ephemerally 
between God and existence. These five propositions re- 
nforce and lend impetus to one another. But each has 
ts own source in a fundamental experience of existence. 
None of these five principles is demonstrable in the 
sense of a limited insight into objects in the world. 
Their truth can only be "pointed out," "elucidated" 
iby a chain of reasoning, "recalled to mind." They do 
not constitute a creed, for despite the force of the faith 
that is placed in them they remain in the suspension of 
nonknowledge. I follow them not because I accept a 
dogma in obedience to an authority but because by my 
very nature I cannot elude their truth. 

Glib statements of principles fill us with misgiving. 
They are too readily treated like a body of knowledge, 
and this vitiates their purpose. They are too readily 
made into a dogma which is substituted for reality. 
They should be communicated, in order that men may 
understand one another through them, in order that 
they may be confirmed by communication, in order 
that they may awaken men when conditions are 
favourable. But by the definiteness of their statement 
:hey give rise to pseudo-knowledge. 



Statement demands discussion. For when we think, 
there are always two possibilities : we may arrive at the 
truth or we may miss it. Thus every positive statement 
demands safeguards against error, and side by side 
with the ordered building up of thought we find per 
version. Consequently, all positive exposition must bei 
permeated by negative judgments, limitation, and 
critique. But in philosophical thought this battle of 
discussion is not a struggle for power; it is a struggle forj 
lucidity through questioning, a struggle for clarity and; 
truth, in which we allow our adversary all those' 
weapons of the intellect with which we defend our owni 

In philosophizing I have recourse to direct state- 
ment where a direct question is asked. Is there a God? 
Is there an unconditional imperative in our life? Isj 
man imperfectible? Is there guidance by God? Is the 
reality of the world suspended and ephemeral? I am 
compelled to answer, when I am confronted by the 
principles characterizing lack of faith, which are more 
or less as follows : 

First: There is no God, for there is only the world) 
and the laws governing its process; the world is God. 

Second: There is no unconditional imperative, for 
the imperatives which I obey originated in time and 
are in process of change. They are determined by 
custom, habit, tradition, obedience; everything is 
contingent upon something else ad infinitum. 

Third : Man is perfectible, for man can be just as 
perfect in his way as the animal; it wilt4De possible to 
breed a perfect man. There is no inherent, funda- 
mental imperfection or frailty in man. Man is no 



itermediate being but complete and whole. True, 
ke everything else in the world he is transient, but he 
I grounded in himself, independent, adequate to 
imself in his world. 

Fourth: There is no guidance by God. This guid- 
ance is an illusion and a self-deception. Man has the 
trength to follow himself and can rely on his own 

Fifth : The world is everything, its reality is the sole 
nd authentic reality. Since there is no transcendence, 
^erything in the world is indeed transient, but the 
/orld itself is absolute, it is eternal and not ephemeral, 
i is not transition and suspension. 

In dealing with such statements of lack of faith 
ihilosophy has a twofold task: to apprehend their 
rigin and to elucidate the truth of faith. 

Lack of faith is generally regarded as a product of 
le Enlightenment. But what is enlightenment?* 
I The teachings of enlightenment are directed against 
he blindness which accepts ideas as true without 
[uestioning them; against actions — e.g., magical 
.ctions — which cannot accomplish what they aie 
xpected to accomplish, since belief in their efficacy 
b based on assumptions which can be proved false; 
Lgainst restrictions on questioning and inquiry; 
j.gainst traditional prejudices. Enlightenment demands 
in unlimited striving for insight and a critical aware- 
less of the quality and limit of every insight. 

* It is clear in Jaspers' discussion of the enlightenment that he is not primarily 
'oncerned with the historical movement known as the Enlightenment. As a 
ierennially significant philosophical attitude, enlightenment is opposed to 
iaperstition, prejudice, and anything else that obstructs the deepest apprehen- 
Lon of and response to reality. 


Man strives to understand what he believes, ^ 
desires, and does. He wants to think for himself. He 
wishes to grasp with his understanding, and where' 
possible to have proof of what is true. He wants his 
knowledge to be based on experience which is funda- 
mentally accessible to everyone. He seeks paths to the! ' 
source of insight instead of permitting it to be setl 
before him as a finished product which he need only 
accept. He wishes to understand to what degree a 
proof is valid and at what limits the understanding is 
frustrated. And he would like also to have a reasoned 
basis for the indemonstrable premise, which he must 
ultimately take as the foundation of his life, of the 
authority he follows, of the veneration he feels, of the 
respect in which he holds the thoughts and actions of 
great men, of the trust which he places in something 
which, whether only at this particular time and in thisi 
particular situation or in general, is unfathomed and 
unfathomable. Even in obedience he wants to know 
why he obeys. He subjects everything he holds to be 
true and everything that he does in the belief that it is 
right to this condition; he himself must participate in 
it inwardly. And such participation must be based on 
self-conviction. In short: enlightenment is — in the 
words of Kant — "man's departure from the condition 
of immaturity for which he himself is responsible." In 
truth it is the path by which man comes to himself. 

But the demands of enlightenment are so easily' 
misunderstood that the very term is ambivalent. There I 
can be true and there can be false enlightenment. And' 
accordingly the fight against enlightenment is itself 



fimbivalent. It can — rightly — be directed against 
alse, or — unjustifiably — be directed against true en- 
ightenment. Often the two are mingled in one. 

Enemies of the Enlightenment have said that it 
lestroyed the tradition upon which all life rested ; that 
It dissolved faith and led to nihilism; that it gave to 
lach man the freedom of his arbitrary will, thus 
;)roducing disorder and anarchy; that it made men 
vretched by destroying their roots. 

These accusations apply to a false enlightenment 
vhich itself has ceased to understand the nature of true 
enlightenment. False enlightenment strives to base all 
mowledge and will and action upon mere understand- 
ng (instead of merely using the understanding as an 
ndispensable means of elucidating that which must be 
riven to it) ; it absolutizes the insights of the under- 
itanding, which are always particular (instead of 
nerely applying them to the sphere that is appro- 
priate to them) ; it misleads the individual into asserting 
that he can know by himself alone and that he can act 
bn the basis of his knowledge alone, as though the 
ndividual were everything (instead of basing himself 
jpon the living context of the knowledge obtained 
phrough questioning and searching in common with 
()ther men) ; it lacks the feeling for exception and 
authority, by which all human life must orient itself. 
In short, it strives to stand man upon himself, in the 
belief that he can attain to everything that is true and 
essential through intellectual insight. It strives only to 
know and not to believe. 

True enlightenment on the other hand, while it does 
not from outside, by intention and coercion, impose a 



limit upon questioning, is aware of the factual limit.: 
For it not only elucidates prejudices and commonj 
beliefs which were hitherto unquestioned but also' 
elucidates itself. It does not confound the methods oij 
the understanding with the contents of humanity.! 
In its view these contents can be elucidated byi 
rational understanding but they cannot be based 
upon the understanding. 

Let us now discuss some of the attacks that have been 
made on enlightenment. It has been called the super- 
erogation of man, who wishes to owe only to himseli 
what has been bestowed upon him by grace. 

Those who make this accusation fail to recognize 
that God does not speak through the commands and 
revelations of other men but in man's selfhood and 
through his freedom, not from without but from 
within. Any restriction on man's freedom, created by 
God and oriented toward God, is a restriction upon the 
very thing through which God manifests himself The 
enemies of enhghtenment rebel against God himself in 
favour of supposedly divine but actually manmade 
contents of faith, injunctions, prohibitions, institutions 
and rules of conduct, wherein, as in all things human, 
folly and wisdom are inextricably intermingled. To 
cease questioning these things is to renounce the human 
mission. The rejection of enlightenment is a kind of 
treason against man. \ 

One of the main elements of enhghtenment isl 
science, a science free from preconceived notions; 
whose searching and questioning are not Hmited by! 
aims and truths set forth in advance (apart from suchi 



fthical, humanitarian restrictions as those forbidding 
he use of men as objects of experiment). 

We have heard the outcry: Science destroys faith, 
jreek science could be built into faith and was useful 
or its elucidation, but modern science is utterly 
ruinous. It is a purely historical phenomenon resulting 
rom a catastrophic world crisis. We may expect its end 
md should do our utmost to hasten it. These critics 
doubt the eternal truth which shines forth in modern 
jcience. They deny the dignity of man which is today 
ID longer*'possible without a scientific attitude. They 
ittack philosophical enlightenment, which they as- 
sociate only with the flatness of the understanding and 
lot with the breadth of reason. They turn against 
tiberaUsm, seeing only the congealed hberahsm of 
laissez faire and superficial faith in progress, not the 
profound force of Hberahty. They attack tolerance as 
fieartless indifference, and fail to recognize the uni- 
versal human readiness for communication. In short 
ithey reject our foundation in human dignity, in the 
ipower to attain knowledge, in freedom, and advocate 
(philosophical suicide. 

In opposition to these beHefs we are certain that today 
there can be no integrity, reason, or human dignity 
jwithout a true scientific attitude, where tradition and 
j situation make this attitude possible. Where science is lost 
i man falls into the twilight of vaguely edifying sentiments, 
of fanatical decisions arrived at in self-willed blindness. 
Barriers are erected, man is led into new prisons. 

Why these attacks on enlightenment? 

Not infrequently they grow out of an urge to 



absurdity, a drive to set men up as mouthpieces of God 
and obey them. They arise out of passion for the night.' 
which no longer follows the laws of the day but amidi 
the experience of the bottomless builds a supposedly! 
saving pseudo-order without foundation. And theyi 
grow out of the unfaith of those who, in their desire for 
faith, persuade themselves that they have a faith. And 
out of a will to power which fosters the behef that men 
are more compliant when they are blindly subservient 
to an authority which is an instrument of this power. 
Often the enemies of enlightenment have invoked 
Christ and the New Testament— rightly so if they had 
in mind certain churches and theologies down through 
the centuries, but unjustifiably if they were thinking 
of the source and truth of the biblical rehgion as such, 
for these are alive in true enlightenment, they are 
elucidated by philosophy, which helps perhaps to pre- 
serve them for humanity in the new technological world. 
If the attacks on enhghtenment often seem meaning- 
ful,^ it is because of the perversions of enhghtenment, 
which are indeed open to attack. What makes the 
perversions possible is the difficulty of the task. It is 
true that the enthusiasm with which every newly 
awakening man attains freedom and through it a 
greater sense of openness to the godhead goes hand in 
hand with enlightenment. But soon enlightenment may 
become an unwarranted aspiration. For God is not 
heard unequivocally out of freedom but only in the 
course of lifelong effort through moments when man is 
granted what he could never attain by thought. Men 
cannot always bear the burden of critical non- 
knowledge in mere readiness to listen at the proper 



loment. He desires definite knowledge of the ulti- 

Once he has rejected faith, he abandons himself to 
le intellect as such, and from it falsely expects cer- 
linty in the decisive questions of life. But since 
lought cannot provide such certainty, his expecta- 
Lons can be fulfilled only by deceptions : the finite and 
eterminate, sometimes this, sometimes that, and so on 
ti endless variations, is absolutized into the whole. A 
)articular category is taken for cognition as such. The 
ontinuity of persevering self-examination gives way 
o overweening trust in a definitive pseudo-certainty, 
vien claim absolute truth for opinions based on acci- 
lent and situation, and in their pseudo-lucidity 
uccumb to a new blindness. In its assertion that man 
an know and think everything on the basis of his own 
nsight, such enUghtenment is indeed arbitrary. It 
lupports this impossible claim by undisciphned half- 

We cannot combat all these perversions of enlighten- 
ment by aboHshing thought but only by a realization 
pf thought with its full potentiahties, with its critical 
awareness of Hmits and its valid accompHshments 
>vhich sustain the test of knowledge. Only a develop- 
ment of thought achieved through the self-education 
bf the whole man can prevent any body of thought 
whatsoever from becoming a poison; can prevent 
enlightenment from becoming an agent of death. 

The purest enUghtenment recognizes that it cannot 
dispense with faith. The five propositions of philoso- 
phical faith cannot be demonstrated Uke scientific 



theses. It is not possible to impose faith by rationa 
means, by any science or philosophy. 

It is a fallacy of false enlightenment to suppose thai 
the understanding by itself alone can know truth anc 
being. The understanding is dependent on something 
else. As scientific cognition, it is dependent on sensory 
experience. As philosophy, it is dependent on contents 
of faith. 

The understanding can indeed clarify, purify, 
develop thought, but that which lends its opinions 
objective significance, its thought fulfilment, its 
action purpose, its philosophy authentic content must 
be given to it. 

The source of these premises upon which thought 
must depend is ultimately unknowable. They are 
rooted in the Comprehensive out of which we live. If 
the force of the Comprehensive fails us, we inchne to 
the five negative propositions of unfaith. 

The premises of sensory experience come from the 
world, the premises of faith have their source in histori- 
cal tradition. In this outward form the premises are 
merely guides by which we find our way to the 
authentic premises. For the outward premises are 
subject to constant testing, not only by the under- 
standing as a judge who of himself knows what is true 
but by the understanding as an instrument: the 
understanding tests experience by other experience; 
it also tests traditional faith by traditional faith, and in 
so doing tests all tradition by the original awakening of 
its contents out of the primal source of our own self- 
hood. The sciences provide those necessary insights 
into experience which no one following the prescribed 



.lethods can elude; while philosophy, through its 
reasoned approach to tradition, makes possible our 


We cannot combat unfaith directly but we can 
combat the demonstrably false claims of rationalistic 
pseudo-knowledge and the claims of faith that assume 
a falsely rational form. 

i The principles of philosophical faith become false 
when they are taken as communication of a content. 
I For none of these principles implies an absolute object; 
they are to be taken as the symbol of an infinity becom- 
ing concrete. Where this infinity is present in faith, the 
endless reahty of the world takes on meaning as its 
manifestation. But this meaning must still be inter- 

When the philosopher utters these principles of 
faith, they assume an analogy to a creed. The philo- 
sopher should not exploit his nonknowledge in order to 
evade all answers. He must be circumspect in his 
philosophizing and repeat: I do not know; I do not 
even know whether I beheve; however, such faith, 
expressed in such propositions, strikes me as meaning- 
ful; I will venture to believe in this way, and I hope I 
shall have the strength to live by my faith. In philo- 
sophy there will always be a tension between the 
seeming indecision of the suspended utterance and the 
reahty of resolute conduct. 




No REALiTYis iiiore essential to our self-awareness 
than history. It shows us the broadest horizon of man- 
kind, brings us the contents of tradition upon which 
our life is built, shows us standards by which to 
measure the present, frees us from unconscious! 
bondage to our own age, teaches us to see man in his; 
highest potentialities and his imperishable creations. 

We can make no better use of leisure than to 
familiarize ourselves and keep ourselves familiar with 
the glories of the past and the catastrophes in which 
everything has been shattered. We gain a better 
understanding of our present experience if we see it in 
the mirror of history. And history becomes alive for us 
when we regard it in the light of our own age. Our life 
becomes richer when past and present illumine one 

It is only the concrete, particular history which is 
close to us that truly concerns us. Yet in our philoso- 
phical approach to history we inevitably deal in 
certain abstractions. 

History sometimes appears to be a chaos of acci- 
dental happenings, an eddying flood. It passes on, 
from one turmoil, from one catastrophe to the next, with 
brief intervals of happiness, little islands which it 

* In this chapter certain passages from my book Vom Ursprung und ^iel der 
Geschichte have been reproduced verbatim. 



spares for a time, until they too are engulfed. All in all 

as Max Weber put it — a road paved by the devil 
with demolished values. 

True, our insight has revealed certain connections, 

'causal relations, such as the effects of technological 

Inventions on working methods, of working methods 

on social structures, of conquests on ethnic grouping, 

f military technique on military organization and of 

ilitary organization on political structure, and so on 
d infinitum. And beyond causality we also find certain 
[total aspects, as in the succession of cultural styles over 
!a series of generations, as epochs of culture each rooting 
[in the one before it, as great self-contained culture- 
bodies in their development. Spengler and his followers 
saw such cultures growing out of the mass of vegetating 
mankind like plants springing from the soil, flowering 
and dying, and having little or no bearing upon one 
another; Spengler counted eight of them up to our 
time, Toynbee twenty-one. 

Seen in this way history has no meaning, no unity 
and no structure, but reveals only innumerable chains 
of causality and morphological organisms such as 
occur in the natural process (except that in history 
they can be defined with far less precision) . 

But the philosophy of history implies the search for 
meaning, unity, and structure in history. It can deal 
only with mankind as a whole. 

Let us draw up a brief outline of history. 

Men have been living for hundreds of thousands of 
years; this is proved by bones found in geological 
strata which can be dated. For tens of thousands of 
years there have been men exactly like us anatomically, 



as is shown by paintings and remains of tools. But it is 
only for the last five to six thousand years that we have 
had a documented, coherent history. 

History breaks down into four basic segments : 

First : We can only infer the first great steps toward 
the use of language, the invention of tools, the kindling 
and use of fire. This is the Promethean age, the founda- 
tion of all history, through which man became man in 
distinction to a purely biologically defined human 
species, of which we ckn scarcely conceive. When 
this was, over what vast periods of time the process ex- 
tended, we do not know. But this age must be situated 
in the very remote past and it must have been many 
times longer than the comparatively insignificant 
span of time covered by our documented historical 

Second: The ancient high civilizations grew up 
between 5000 and 3000 b.c. in Egypt, Mesopotamia, 
and on the Indus, somewhat later on the Hwang 
River in China. These are little islands of light amid 
the broad mass of mankind which already populated 
the whole planet. 

Third: In the years centring around 500 B.C. — 
from 800 to 200 — the spiritual foundations of humanity 
were laid, simultaneously and independently in China, 
India, Persia, Palestine, and Greece. And these are 
the foundations upon which humanity still subsists 

Fourth : Since then there has been only one entirely 
new, spiritually and materially incisive event, equal to 
the others in historical significance : the age of science 
and technology. It was foreshadowed in Europe at the 



:nd of the Middle Ages; its theoretical groundwork 
was laid in the seventeenth century; at the end of the 
eighteenth century it entered on a period of broad 
growth, and in the last few decades it has advanced at 
headlong pace. 

Let us cast a glance at the third segment, that of the 
years around 500 B.C. Hegel has said, "All history 
moves toward Christ and from Christ, The appear- 
ance of the Son of God is the axis of history." Our 
calendar reminds us every day of this Christian 
structure of history. The flaw in this view of history is 
that it can have meaning only for believing Christians. 
But even Western Christians have not built their em- 
pirical view of history on their faith but have drawn 
an essential distinction between sacred and profane 

If there is an axis in history, we must find it em- 
pirically in profane history, as a set of circumstances 
significant for all men, including Christians. It must 
carry conviction for Westerners, Asiatics, and all men, 
without the support of any particular content of 
faith, and thus provide all men with a common his- 
torical frame of reference. 

The spiritual process which took place between 800 
and 200 B.C. seems to constitute such an axis. It was 
then that the man with whom we live today came into 
being. Let us designate this period as the "axial age." 
Extraordinary events are crowded into this period. In 
China lived Confucius and Lao Tse, all the trends in 
Chinese philosophy arose, it was the era of Mo Tse, 
Chuang Tse and countless others. In India it was the 



age of the Upanishads and of Buddha; as in China, all 
philosophical trends, including skepticism and materi- 
alism, sophistry and nihilism, were developed. In Iran 
Zarathustra put forward his challenging conception 
of the cosmic process as a struggle between good and 
evil; in Palestine prophets arose: Elijah, Isaiah, 
Jeremiah, Deutero-Isaiah; Greece produced Homer, 
the philosophers Parmenides, Heraclitus, Plato, the 
tragic poets, Thucydides, and Archimedes. All the vast 
development of which these names are a mere intima- 
tion took place in these few centuries, independently! 
and almost simultaneously in China, India, and the 

The new element in this age is that man everywhere; 
became aware of being as a whole, of himself and his 
limits. He experienced the horror of the world and his 
own helplessness. He raised radical questions, ap- 
proached the abyss in his drive for liberation and' 
redemption. And in consciously apprehending his 
limits he set himself the highest aims. He experienced 
the absolute in the depth of selfhood and in the clarity j 
of transcendence. 

Conflicting possibilities were explored. Discussion, 
partisanship, intellectual schisms (though within a 
common frame of reference) gave rise to movement 
and unrest bordering on spiritual chaos. 

This era produced the basic categories in which we 
still think and created the world religions out of which 
men still live. 

The opinions, customs, conditions which had , 
hitherto enjoyed unconscious acceptance came to be: 
questioned. The world was thrown into turmoil. 



The mythical age with its peace of mind and self- 

(f^ident truths was ended. This was the beginning of 

le struggle — based on rationality and empirical 

(cperience — against the myth; of the battle against 

le demons for the transcendence of the one God; 

hical indignation waged war on false gods. Myths 

ere transformed and infused with deep meaning in 

t le very moment when the myth as such was destroyed. 

i Man was no longer self-contained. He was uncertain 

f himself, hence open to new and boundless pos- 


For the first time there were philosophers. Men 
ared to stand upon their own feet as individuals, 
lermits and wandering thinkers in China, ascetics in 
ndia, philosophers in Greece, prophets in Israel may 
le grouped together, greatly as they diflfer in faith, 
ieas, and inner attitude. Man opposed his own 
Qwardness to the whole world. He discovered in 
limself the primal source, by virtue of which he might 
ise above himself and the world. 

And in that same era man gained awareness of 
listory. It was an age of extraordinary beginnings, 
)ut men felt and knew that an infinite past had gone 
before. Even in this first awakening of the truly 
luman spirit man was sustained by memory, he had 
onsciousness of lateness, even of decadence. 

Men strove to plan and control the course of events, 
to restore desirable conditions or produce them for 
the first time. Thinkers speculated as to how men 
might best live together, as to how they might best 
be administered and governed. It was an age of 



And the sociological conditions of all three region 
reveal analogies: innumerable petty states and cities, i\ 
struggle of all against all, and yet at first an astonishing 

But these centuries in which so much happened 
were not characterized by a simple ascending develop! 
ment. There was destruction and creation at once, ancj 
there was no fulfilment. The supreme potentialities' 
realized in individuals did not become a commorj 
heritage. What started out as freedom of movemenll 
became anarchy in the end. Once the era lost its' 
creative impetus, ideas congealed into dogmas and a 
levelling occurred in all three spheres. As the disorder 
grew intolerable, men sought new bonds and new' 

The end was first characterized by political develop- 
ments. Vast despotic empires arose almost simultane- 
ously in China (Tsin, Shi, Huangti), in India (the 
Maurya dynasty), in the West (the Hellenistic 
empires and the Imperium Romanum). Everywhere 
systematic order and technical organization emerged 
from the collapse. 

The spiritual life of men is still oriented toward the| 
axial age. China, India, and the West have all wit-J 
nessed conscious attem.pts to restore it, renaissances. 
True, there have been great new spiritual creations 
but they have been inspired by ideas acquired in the 
axial age. 

Thus the main line of history runs from the birth of 
humanity through the civilizations of high anti- 
quity to the axial age and its offshoots, which 



Dlayed a creative role up to the dawn of our own 

I Since then a new hne would seem to have begun. 
pur age of science and technology is a kind of second 
beginning, comparable to the first invention of tools 
f.nd fire-making. 

j If we may venture a presumption by analogy, we 
jhall pass through vast planned organizations analogous 
jo those of Egypt and the other ancient high civiliza- 
fions, from which the ancient Jews emigrated and on 
[vhich, when they laid a new foundation, they looked 
3ack with hatred as a place of forced labour. Perhaps 
nankind will pass through these giant organizations 
:o a new axial age, still remote, invisible, and in- 
:onceivable, an axial age of authentic human upsurge. 

But today we are living in an era of the most 
errible catastrophes. It seems as though everything 
hat had been transmitted to us were being melted 
iown, and yet there is no convincing sign that a new 
edifice is in the making. 

What is new is that in our day history is for the 
irst time becoming world-wide in scope. Measured by 
he unity which modern communications have given 
o the globe, all previous history is a mere aggregate of 
ocal histories. 

What we formerly called history is ended — an 
ntermediary moment of five thousand years between 
he prehistoric centuries in which the globe was popu- 
ated and the world history which is now beginning, 
fhese millennia, measured by the preceding era of 
nan's existence and by future possibilities, are a 
ninute interval. In this interval men may be said to 



have gathered together, to have mustered thei 
forces for the action of world history, to have acquirec 
the intellectual and technical equipment they needec 
for the journey which is just beginning. 

We must look to horizons such as these when wt 
incline to take a dark view of the realities of our da) 
and to regard all human history as lost. We anj 
justified in believing in the future potentialities o: 
humanity. In the short view all is gloom, in the long 
view it is not. But this becomes evident only in the 
light of history as a whole. 

The more fully we realize ourselves in the present, 
seeking the truth and ascertaining the criteria oi 
humanity, the more confidently we may look to the 

And now, as to the meaning of history. Those whoi 
believe that the historical process has an aim often! 
strive to reaHze it by planning. | 

But we become aware of our helplessness when we' 
seek to plan and organize history as a whole. Thej 
overweening plans of rulers, based upon a supposed! 
total knowledge of history, have always ended ini 
catastrophe. The plans devised by individuals in their j 
restricted circles fail or else contribute to unleashing! 
quite diflferent, unplanned complexes of events. The 
historical process can be seen either as an irresistible 
mechanism or as an infinitely interpretable meaning 
which manifests itself by unexpected new events, 
which remains always equivocal, a meaning which, 
even when we entrust ourselves to it, is never known 
to us. 



I If we seek the meaning of history in a movement 
oward some ultimate state of happiness on earth, we 
ind no corroboration in any conceivable view of past 
listory. On the contrary, the whole chaotic course of 
mman history, with its modest successes and total 
catastrophes, argues against such meaning. The 
neaning of history cannot be formulated in terms of 
p,n aim. 

Every aim is particular, provisional, and capable of 
|)eing transcended. It is only by ignoring essential 
facts that we can interpret the whole of history as the 
litory of a single decision. 

! What does God want of men? Perhaps a general 
.mswer may be ventured: History is the stage upon 
A^hich man can reveal what he is, what he can be, 
A^hat he can become, of what he is capable. Even the 
greatest threat is a challenge to man. Man's ascent 
:annot be measured only in terms of security. 

But history means far more : it is the stage on which 
:he being of the godhead is revealed. Being is revealed 
in man through his dealings with other men. For God 
does not disclose himself in history in any single, 
exclusive way. Potentially each man stands in im- 
mediate relation to God. Amid all the diversity of 
bistory we must give the unique, the irreplaceable, 
its due. 

From all this it follows that if I attempt to foresee 
tangible happiness in the form of perfection on earth, 
of a human paradise, I can expect nothing; but I can 
expect everything if I am oriented toward the pro- 
found humanity which opens up with faith in God. I 
can hope for nothing if I look only outward; for 



everything if, partaking of the primal source, I 
entrust myself to transcendence. 

We cannot define the ultimate aim of history but w 
can posit an aim which is itself a premise for th 
realization of the highest human potentialities. An< 
that is the unity of mankind. 

Unity cannot be achieved through any rational 
scientific universal. This would produce a unity of th 
understanding but not of mankind. Nor does unit 
reside in a universal religion, such as might be arrivec 
at through discussion at religious congresses. Nor cai 
it be realized through a conventional language basec 
on reason and common sense. Unity can be gained onl-j 
from the depth of historicity, not as a common 
knowable content but in boundless communicatior 
of the historically diflferent in never-ending dialogue 
rising to heights of noble emulation. 

A dialogue of this sort, which will be worthy oii 
man, requires an area of freedom from violence. A 
practical unity of men striving for such an area oJ> 
nonviolence seems conceivable, and many have 
already taken it as their goal. This goal of unifying 
mankind at least on the basic levels of life, which does 
not imply a common and universal faith, does not 
seem entirely Utopian*. Its realization will require a 
stubborn poKtical struggle against the powers that 
be — and our very situation may well drive us into suchjj 
a struggle. 

Prerequisite for such a unity is a political form uponi 
which all can agree, since it provides the best possible; 
basis of freedom for all. This form, which only in the; 



est has been developed in theory and in part 
ealized, is the constitutional state built on elections 
nd on laws which are subject to modification solely 
»y legal means. In such a state men battle to gain 
ecognition for the just cause, to win public opinion 
hrough widespread and enHghtened education and 
he unreserved dissemination of news. 

There would be no wars in a constitutional world 
►rder where no state would possess absolute sovereignty 
)ut mankind itself, acting through its constitutional 
►rgans, would be sovereign. 
But if humanity desires communication and aspires 
end violence through a constitutional order 
vhich, though unjust, is moving toward justice, we 
hall not be helped by an optimism born of enthu- 
iasm for such ideas, which sees the future as all 
right. For we have every reason to take the opposite 

We see, each of us in ourself, the self-will, the 
esistance to self-elucidation, the sophistry, with which 
ven philosophy is used as an instrument of obfusca- 
Ition; we see rejection of the unfamiliar in the place of 
tommunication. We see the pleasure men take in 
power and violence; we see how the masses are swept 
into war; stricken with blind lust for gain and ad- 
venture, willing to sacrifice everything, even their 
lives. On the other hand we see the unwillingness of 
the masses to deprive themselves, to save, to work 
patiently and quietly toward the building of stable 
conditions; and we see the passions which force their 
way almost unobstructed into the background of the 



And quite apart from the character of men, we s© 
the irremediable injustice of all institutions, we se 
situations which cannot be solved by justice, th 
situations arising for example from the increase an« 
redistribution of the population or from the exclusivi 
possession by one group of something which al 
desire and which cannot be divided. 

Hence there seems almost to be an inevitable 
limit at which violence in some form must again breal 
through. Once again we are faced with the question 
is it God or the devil who governs the world? Anc 
though we may believe that ultimately the devil is ir 
the service of God, there is no proof of it. 

When in our isolation we see our lives seeping away 
as a mere succession of moments, tossed meaninglessily 
about by accidents and overwhelming events; when 
we contemplate a history that seems to be at an end, 
leaving only chaos behind it, then we are impelled to 
raise ourselves above history. ' 

Yet we must remain aware of our epoch and our 
situation. A modern philosophy cannot develop 
without elucidating its roots in time and in a particular 
place. But even though we are subject to the condi- 
tions of our epoch, it is not from these conditions that 
we draw our philosophy, but now as at all times from 
the Comprehensive. We must not adjust our poten- 
tialities to the low level of our age, not subordinate 
ourselves to our epoch, but attempt, by elucidating 
the age, to arrive at the point where we can live out of 
our primal source. 

Nor must we deify history. We need not accept the 

1 08 


godless maxim that history is the last judgment. It is 
QO ultimate instance. Failure is no argument against 
the truth that is rooted in transcendence. By making 
tiistory our own, we cast an anchor through history 
into eternity. 




The independence of man is rejected by all 
totalitarianism, by the totalitarian religion which 
claims exclusive truth as well as by the totahtarian 
state which, melting down all humanity into material 
for its edifice of power, leaves no room for individuality 
and even controls leisure activities in accordance 
with an ideological line. Today independence seems 
to be silently disappearing beneath the inundation of 
all life by the typical, the habitual, the unquestioned 

But to philosophize is to fight for our inner inde- 
pendence, under all conditions. What is inner 

Since late antiquity the philosopher has been 
represented as an independent man. The portrait 
has certain salient features: This philosopher is 
independent, first because he is without needs, free 
from the world of possessions and the rule of passions, 
he is an ascetic; second, because he is without fear, 
for he has seen through the illusory terrors of the 
religions; third, because he takes no part in govern- 
ment and politics and lives without ties, in peaceful 
retirement, a citizen of the world. In any case this 



philosopher believes that he has attained to a posi- 
tion of absolute independence, a vantage point out- 
side of things, in which he cannot be moved or 

This philosopher has become an object of admira- 
tion but also of distrust. True, numerous philosophers 
of this type have disclosed rare independence through 
poverty, celibacy, aloofness from business and politics; 
they have manifested a happiness which did not 
spring from anything eternal but from awareness 
that life is a journey and from indifference to the 
blows of fate. But some of these figures also reveal 
egoism and ambition, pride and vanity, a coldness in 
human dealings and an ugly hostility to other phil- 
osophers. And dogmatism is common to all of them. 
Theirs is an impure independence which seems very 
much akin to an ununderstood and sometimes 
ridiculous dependence. 

Nevertheless, side by side with biblical religion 
these philosophers do offer a historical source of 
possible independence. Acquaintance with them 
encourages our own striving for independence, perhaps 
precisely by showing us that man cannot sustain him- 
self in isolation and detachment. This ostensible 
absolute freedom turns automatically into a new 
dependence, outwardly on the world, whose recogni- 
tion is courted, inwardly on unclarified passions. The 
road of the philosophers of late antiquity offers us no 
promise. Although some were magnificent personali- 
ties, they created, in their fight for freedom, rigid 
figures and masks without background. 

We see that independence turns into its opposite 



if it is held to be absolute. And it is not easy to say in I 
what sense we can strive for independence. j 

The concept of independence is almost hopelessly 
ambivalent. For example: 

The philosopher, and the metaphysician in 
particular, sets up thought structures like games to 
which he remains superior because of his unlimited 
power over them. But this gives rise to the question: 
Is man master of his thoughts because he is godless 
and can carry on his creative game without reference 
to a foundation, arbitrarily, according to rules which 
he himself has devised, enchanted by its form, or 
conversely, because he is oriented toward God and 
thus remains superior to the discourse in which he 
must inevitably clothe absolute being, which can 
never fit the absolute, and hence needs to be re- 
adjusted ad infinitum? 

Here the independence of the philosopher consists 
in his not succumbing to his ideas as dogmas but in 
making himself master over them. But mastery over 
one's ideas remains ambivalent — does it mean an 
arbitrary freedom from ties or does it imply ties in 

Another example: In order to gain our independ- 
ence we seek an Archimedean point outside of the 
world. This is an authentic quest, but the question is: 
Is this Archimedean point an outsideness which makes 
man a kind of God in his total independence or is it the 
outside point where he truly meets God and exper- 
iences his only complete independence, which alone 
can make him independent in the world? 



Because of this ambivalence, independence, instead 
)f becoming a road to authentic selfhood in historic 
ulfilment, can easily be confused with irresponsibiHty, 
or the perpetual availabiUty for something else. Then 
lelfhood is lost, and all that remains is different roles 
played in different situations. This pseudo-independ- 
ence, like all delusions, takes on countless forms. For 
example : 

It can take the form of an aesthetic attitude toward 
all things, regardless of whether these things be men, 
animals, or stones. The resulting vision may have the 
force of a mythical perception, yet such a perception 
is " dead with waking eyes," since it does not carry the 
decision in which life is grounded ; those who perceive 
Ithings in this way may be prepared to commit them- 
jselves to the point of risking their Hves but not to 
ilanchor themselves in the unconditional. Insensitive 
ito contradictions and absurdities, avid for perceptions, 
I they live amid the pressures of the age, striving to be 
affected as little as possible by those pressures, to 
carry on in the independence of their own will and 
experience, to live a Hfe which responds outwardly to 
every pressure but retains an inner insensitivity, 
finding the summit of existence in the formulation of 
things seen, mistaking speech for being. 

Those who cultivate this independence of irrespon- 
sibility shun self-awareness. The pleasure of vision 
becomes assimilated to passion for being. Being 
seems to reveal itself in this mythical thinking, which 
is a kind of speculative poetry. 

But being does not reveal itself to the mere passion 
of vision. The most serious solitary vision, the most 



eloquent turns of phrase and striking images, in dis- 
regard of communication — all this dictatorial language 
of wisdom and prophecy is not enough. 

Thus those who are deluded into supposing that 
they possess being as such often endeavour to make man 
forget himself. Man is dissolved in fictions of being 
and yet these fictions themselves always conceal a 
possible road back to man ; hidden dissatisfaction may 
lead to the recovery of the authentic seriousness which 
becomes real only in existential presence and casts off 
the ruinous attitude of those who take life as it is and 
do what they please. 

This irresponsible type of independence is also 
manifested in intellectual opportunism. An irrespon- 
sible playing with contradictions permits such a man 
to take any position he finds convenient. He is versed 
in all methods but adheres strictly to none. He espouses 
an unscientific attitude but makes scientific gestures. 
He is a Proteus, wriggling and changing, you cannot 
grasp hold of him, he actually says nothing but seems 
to be promising something extraordinary. He exerts 
an attraction by vague hints and whisperings which 
give men a sense of the mysterious. No authentic 
discussion with him is possible but only a talking 
back and forth about a wide variety of " interesting " 
things. Conversation with him can be no more than an 
aimless pouring forth of false emotion. 

Irresponsible independence can take the form of 
indifference to a world that has grown intolerable. 

What does death matter? It will come. What is 
there to be perturbed about? 

We live in the joy of our vitality and the pain of its 



;bbing away. A natural Yes permits us at all times to 
*eel and to think according to circumstance. We are 
mpolemical. What is the good of taking sides? Love 
ind tenderness are possible but they are at the mercy 
Df time, of the ephemeral, of the transient as such. 
SFothing is unconditional. 

We drift along, without desire to do or to be any- 
thing in particular. We do what is asked of us or what 
seems appropriate. Genuine emotion is absurd. We are 
helpful in our everyday dealings with men. 

No horizon, no distance, neither past nor future 
Sustain this life which expects nothing and lives only 
here and now. 

The many forms of illusory independence to which 
we can succumb cast suspicion upon independence 
itself. This much is certain: in order to gain true 
independence we must not only elucidate these various 
forms of independence but achieve awareness of the 
limits of all independence. 

Absolute independence is impossible. In thinking we 
are dependent on experience which must be given us, 
in living we are dependent on others with whom we 
stand in a relation of mutual aid. As selfhood we ate 
dependent on other selfhood, and it is only in com- 
munication that we and the others come truly to 
ourselves. There is no isolated freedom. Where there is 
freedom it struggles with unfreedom, and if unfreedom 
were fully overcome through the elimination of all 
resistances freedom itself would cease. 

Accordingly, we are independent only when we are 
at the same time enmeshed in the world. I cannot 



achieve independence by abandoning the world, 
Indeed, independence in the world implies a particulai 
attitude toward the world : to be in it and yet not in it. 
to be both inside it and outside it. This thought is 
shared by great thinkers of the most varying trends: 

With regard to all experiences, pleasures, states oi 
happiness and unhappiness, Aristippus says: I have, 
but I am not had ; St. Paul tells his followers how to take 
part in earthly Hfe : have as though you had not ; the 
Bhagavad-Gita admonishes us to perform the task but 
not to strive after its fruits; Lao Tse counsels man to 
act through inaction. 

These immortal sayings might be interpreted ad 
infinitum. Here we need only say that they all express 
inner independence. Our independence of the world 
is inseparable from a mode of dependence on the 

A second Umit to independence is that by itself alone 
it negates itself: 

Independence has been negatively formulated as 
freedom from fear, as indifference to fortune, good or 
bad, as the imperturbability of the thinker as mere 
spectator, as immunity to emotions and impulses. But 
the self who achieves such independence is reduced to 
the abstract punctuality of the ego. 

Independence does not derive its content from itself. 
It is not any innate gift, it is not vitality, race, the will 
to power, it is not self-creation. 

Philosophical thought grows out of an independence 
in the world, an independence signifying an absolute 
attachment to the world through transcending of the 
world. A supposed independence without attachment 



becomes at once empty, that is, formal thinking, which 
is not present in its content, which does not participate 
in its idea, which is not grounded in existence. This 
independence becomes arbitrariness, particularly in 
negation. It costs nothing to question everything 
when there is no power to guide and bind the question. 

The contrary is stated in Nietzsche's radical thesis: 
Only when there is no God does man become free. For 
if there is a God man does not grow, because he flows 
as it were continuously into God like an undammed 
brook, which gathers no force. But using the same 
figure we might say the reverse : Only with his eyes to 
God does man grow instead of seeping away un- 
dammed into the meaninglessness of life's mere 

A third limit to our independence is the basic nature 
of man. As man v/e suffer from fundamental weaknesses 
from which we cannot free ourselves. With the first 
awakening of our consciousness we fall into error. 

In the Bible this thought is expressed in mythical 
terms as the fall of man. In Hegel's philosophy man's 
alienation is magnificently elucidated. Kierkegaard 
speaks poignantly of the demonic in us, which drives us 
to despair and isolation. Sociology refers with less 
subtlety to the ideologies, psychology to the com- 
plexes which dominate us. 

Can we master our inliibition and forgetfulness, our 
cloakings and concealings, our perversions, so as to 
attain to our authentic independence? St. Paul showed 
that we cannot be truly good. For without knowledge 
it is impossible to do good, and if I know that my action 
is good I sin by pride and certainty. Kant showed that 



we do good only under the tacit condition that our 
good action will not be too harmful to our happiness, 
and that this makes our good deed impure. This is a 
radical evil that we cannot overcome. 

Our independence itself requires help. We can only 
do our best and hope that something within us— ^ 
invisible to the world— will in some unfathomable way! 1 
come to our aid and lift us out of our limitations. Theii 
only independence possible for us is dependence on!: 
transcendence. ' 

I should hke to give some intimation of how a 
measure of independence can be achieved in philoso- 
phical thought today : 

Let us not pledge ourselves to any philosophical 
school or take formulable truth as such for the one and 
exclusive truth; let us be master of our thoughts; 

let us not heap up philosophical possessions, but 
apprehend philosophical thought as movement and 
seek to deepen it; 

let us batde for truth and humanity in uncon- 
ditional communication; 

let us acquire the power to learn from all the past 
by making it our own; let us hsten to our con- 
temporaries and remain open to all possibilities; 

^ let each of us as an individual immerse himself in 
his own historicity, in his origin, in what he has done; 
let him possess himself of what he was, of what he 
has become, and of what has been given to him; 

let us not cease to grow through our own historicity 
into the historicity of man as a whole and thus make 
ourselves into citizens of the world. 



We lend little credence to a philosopher who is 
mperturbable, we do not believe in the calm of the 
btoic, we do not even desire to be unmoved, for it is our 
iiumanity itself which drives us into passion and fear 
ind causes us in tears and rejoicing to experience what 
tS. Consequently only by rising from the chains that 

I bind us to our emotions, not by destroying them, do we 
:ome to ourselves. Hence we must venture to be men 
'and then do what we can to move forward to our true 
independence. Then we shall suffer without complain- 
ing, despair without succumbing; we shall be shaken 
but not overturned, for the inner independence that 
grows up in us will sustain us. 

Philosophy is the school of this independence, it is 
not the possession of independence. 




Ifourlives are not to be diffuse and meaningless, 
they must find their place in an order. In our daily 
affairs we must be sustained by a comprehensive 
principle, we must find meaning in an edifice of work, 
fulfilment, and sublime moments, and by repetition 
we must gain in depth. Then our lives, even in the 
performance of monotonous tasks, will be permeated 
by a mood arising from our conscious participation ini 
a meaning. Then we shall be sustained by an awareness 
of the world and of ourselves, by the history of which 
we are a part, and, in our own lives, by memory and 

An order of this sort may come to the individual from 
the world in which he was born, from the church 
which shapes and animates the great steps from birth to 
death and the little steps of everyday life. He will then 
spontaneously fit his daily experience into that order. 
Not so in a crumbling world, which puts less and less 
faith in tradition, in a world which subsists only as 
outward order, without symbolism and transcendence, 
which leaves the soul empty and is not adequate to 
man, which, when it leaves him free, thrusts him back 
upon his own resources, in lust and boredom, fear and 
indifference. Here the individual can rely only in him- 
self. By living philosophically he seeks to build up by 



lis own Strength what his world no longer gives 


The desire to lead a philosophical life springs from 
;he darkness in which the individual finds himself, 
rrom his sense of forlornness when he stares without 
love into the void, from his self-forgetfulness when he 
:eels that he is being consumed by the busy-ness of the 
world, when he suddenly wakes up in terror and asks 
himself: What am I, what am I faihng to do, what 
should I do? 

V That self-forgetfulness has been aggravated by the 
tnachine age. With its time clocks, its jobs, whether 
absorbing or purely mechanical, which less and less 
fulfil man as man, it may even lead man to feel that 
he is part of the machine, interchangeably shunted in 
here and there, and when left free, to feel that he is 
nothing and can do nothing with himself. And just 
as he begins to recover himself, the colossus of this 
world draws him back again into the all-consuming 
machinery of empty labour and empty leisure. 

But man as such incUnes to self-forgetfulness. He 
must snatch himself out of it if he is not to lose himself 
to the world, to habits, to thoughtless banahties, to the 
beaten track. . . 

Philosophy is the decision to awaken our primal 
source, to find our way back to ourselves, and to help 
ourselves by inner action. . 

True, our first duty in hfe is to perform our practical 
tasks, to meet the demands of the day. But if we 
desire to lead a philosophical Hfe we shall not content 
ourselves with practical tasks; we shall look upon the 



mere work in whose aims we immerse ourselves as in 
itself a road to self-forgetfulness, omission, and guilt. 
And to lead a philosophical life means also to take 
seriously our experience of men, of happiness and hurt, 
of success and failure, of the obscure and the confused. ! 
It means not to forget but to possess ourselves inwardly 
of our experience, not to let ourselves be distracted but 
to think problems through, not to take things for 
granted but to elucidate them. 

There are two paths of philosophical life : the path |i 
of solitary meditation in all its ramifications and the 
path of communication with men, of mutual under- 
standing through acting, speaking, and keeping 
silence together. 

We men cannot do without our daily moments of 
profound reflection. In them we recapture our self- 
awareness, lest the presence of the primal source be 
lost entirely amid the inevitable distractions of daily 

What the religions accomplish in prayer and wor- 
ship has its philosophical analogy in explicit im- 
mersion, in inner communion with being itself. This 
can take place only in times and moments (regardless 
whether at the beginning or end of the day or in 
between) when we are not occupied in the world with 
worldly aims and yet are not left empty but are in 
contact with what is most essential. 

Unlike religious contemplation, philosophical con- 
templation has no holy object, no sacred place, no 
fixed form. The order which we give to it does not 
become a rule, it remains potentiality in free motion. 



^rhis contemplation, unlike religious worship, de- 

nands solitude. 

What is the possible content of such meditation? 

First, self-reflection. I call to mind what I have done, 

hought, felt during the day. I ask myself wherein I 

lave erred, wherein I have been dishonest with my- 

;elf, wherein I have evaded my responsibilities, 

A^herein I have been insincere; I also try to discern 

A^hat good qualities I have displayed and seek ways in 

ivhich fo enhance them. I reflect on the degree of 

:onscious control over my actions that I have exerted 

n the course of the day. I judge myself — with regard 

to my particular conduct, not with regard to the whole 

tnan that I am, for that is inaccessible to me — I find 

Drinciples in accordance with which I resolve to judge 

myself, perhaps I fix in my mind words that I plan to 

address to myself in anger, in despair, in boredom, and 

in other states in which the self is lost, magic words as it 

were, reminders (such as: observe moderation, think of 

the other, be patient, God is) . I learn from the tradition 

that runs from the Pythagoreans through the Stoics 

and Christians to Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, with its 

injunction to self-reflection; I realize that such 

reflection can never be conclusive and that it is 

infinitely susceptible to error. 

Second, transcending reflection. Guided by philos- 
ophical methods, I gain awareness of authentic being, 
of the godhead. I read the symbols of being with the 
help of hterature and art. I gain understanding of 
them by philosophical scrutiny. I seek to ascertain 
that which is independent of time or that which is 
eternal in time, seek to touch upon the source of my 



freedom and through it upon being itself; I seek as it 
were to partake of creation. 

Third, I reflect on what should be done in the present. 
Remembrance of my own life with men is the back- 
ground against which I clarify my present task down 
to the details of this particular day, when in the 
inevitable intensity of practical thinking I lose my 
awareness of the Comprehensive meaning. 

What I gain for myself alone in reflection would — if 
it were all — be as nothing gained. 

What is not realised in communication is not yet, 
what is not ultimately grounded in it is without 
adequate foundation. The truth begins with two. 

Consequently philosophy demands: seek constant 
communication, risk it without reserve, renounce the 
defiant self-assertion which forces itself upon you in 
ever new disguises, live in the hope that in your very 
renunciation you will in some incalculable way be 
given back to yourself. 

Hence I must constantly draw myself into doubt, I 
must not grow secure, I must not fasten on to any 
ostensible light within myself, in the belief that it will 
illumine me reliably and judge me truly. Such an 
attitude toward the self is the most seductive form 
of inauthentic self-assertion. 

If I meditate in these three forms — self-reflection, 
transcending meditation, contemplation of my task — 
and open myself to unlimited communication, an 
imponderable presence which can never be forced 
may come to me : the clarity of my love, the hidden and 



Iways uncertain imperative of the godhead, the 
evelation of being — perhaps bringing with it peace of 
liiind amid Hfe's constant turmoil, a trust in the 
Ipundation of things despite the most terrible cat- 
astrophes, unswerving resolve amid the vacillations of 
lassion, a firm loyalty amid the momentary lures of 
his world. 

j If in my meditation I achieve awareness of the 
^Comprehensive out of which I live and can live better, 
neditation will provide the dominant tone that carries 
he through the day in its countless activities, even 
vhile I am being swept along by the technical 
nachine. For in these moments when I return home 
is it were to myself I acquire an underlying harmony 
vhich persists behind the moods and movements of 
he day, which sustains me and in all my derailment, 
confusion, emotional upheaval does not let me sink 
nto the abyss. For these moments give to the present 
30th memory and future, they give my life cohesion 
and continuity. 

To philosophize is then at once to learn how to live 
and to know how to die. Because of the uncertainty of 
temporal existence life is always an experiment. 
! In this experiment the essential is that we dare to 
immerse ourselves in it, neither shunning nor closing 
our eyes to the extreme, and that we let unlimited 
integrity govern our vision, our questioning and our 
answering. And then let us go our way, without 
knowing the whole, without tangibly possessing the 
authentic, without letting false arguments or illusory 
experience provide us with a peephole, as it were, by 
which to look objectively and immediately out of the 




world into transcendence, without hearing any direct! 
and unequivocal word of God, but reading the) 
symbols of the polyvalent language of things and yet 
living with the certainty of transcendence. 

Only transcendence can make this questionable! 
life good, the world beautiful, and existence itself a 

If to philosophize is to learn how to die, then we musti 
learn how to die in order to lead a good life. To learn tO' 
live and to learn how to die are one and the same thing. 

Meditation teaches us the power of thought. 

Thought is the beginning of human existence. In i 
accurate knowledge of objects I experience the power 
of the rational, as in the operations of mathematics, in 
the natural sciences, in technical planning. As my 
method grows purer, the logic of my syllogisms becomes 
more compelling, I gain greater insight into chains of 
causality, my experience becomes more reliable. 

But philosophical thought begins at the limits of 
this rational knowledge. Rationality cannot help us in 
the essentials: it cannot help us to posit aims and 
ultimate ends, to know the highest good, to know God 
and human freedom; this inadequacy of the rational 
gives rise to a kind of thinking which, while working 
with the tools of the understanding, is more than 
understanding. Philosophy presses to the limits of 
rational knowledge and there takes fire. 

He who believes that he understands everything is no 
longer engaged in philosophical thought. He who 
takes scientific insight for knowledge of being itself and 
as a whole has succumbed to scientific superstition. 



de who has ceased to be astonished has ceased to 
question. He who acknowledges no mystery is no 
onger a seeker. Because he humbly acknowledges the 
imits of possible knowledge the philosopher remains 
)pen to the unknowable that is revealed at those limits. 

Here cognition ceases, but not thought. By tech- 
lically applying my knowledge I can act outwardly, 
Dut nonknowledge makes possible an inner action by 
^hich I transform myself. This is another and deeper 
kind of thought; it is not detached from being and 
Driented toward an object but is a process of my 
innermost self, in which thought and being become 
identical. Measured by outward, technical power, 
this thought of inner action is as nothing, it is no 
applied knowledge that can be possessed, it cannot be 
fashioned according to plan and purpose; it is an 
authentic illumination and growth into being. 

The understanding {ratio) broadens our horizons; 
it fixates objects, reveals the tensions of the existent, 
and also permits what it cannot apprehend to stand 
forth in full force and clarity. The clarity of the 
understanding makes possible clarity at its limits, and 
arouses the authentic impulses which are thought and 
action, inward and outward act in one. 

The philosopher is expected to live according to his 
doctrine. This maxim expresses poorly the thought 
that Hes behind it. For the philosopher has no doctrine 
if by doctrine is meant a set of rules under which the 
particular cases of empirical existence might be 
subsumed, as things are subsumed under empirical 
species or men's acts under juridical norms. Philos- 
ophical ideas cannot be appHed; they are a reahty in 



themselves, so that we may say: in the fulfilment c 
these thoughts the man himself lives; or life is per 
meated with thought. That is why the philosophe 
and the man are inseparable (while man can be con 
sidered apart from his scientific knowledge) ; and tha 
is why we cannot explore philosophical ideas in them 
selves but must at the same time gain awareness of th) 
philosophical humanity which conceived them. 

Philosophical life is in constant peril of straying intc 
perversions in justification of which philosophical 
propositions are invoked. The formulae which eluci- 
date existence are distorted by the vital will : 

Peace of mind is confused with passivity, confidence 
with an illusory faith in the harmony of all things, 
knowing how to die is mistaken for flight from the 
world, reason for total indifference. The best is 
perverted to the worst. 

The will to communication is perverted into self- 
contradictory attitudes: we wish to be undisturbed, 
yet demand absolute self-certainty in self-illumination. 
We wish to be excused because of our nerves and yet 
ask to be recognized as free. We are cautious and taci- 
turn, and secretly on our guard even while professing 
unreserved readiness for communication. We think of 
ourselves while we are supposedly speaking of the 

The philosopher who strives to understand and over- 
come these perversions in himself knows his un- 
certainty ; he is always on the lookout for criticism, he 
seeks opposition and wishes to be called to question; 
he desires to listen, not in order to submit but in order 



ko be spurred onward in self-illumination. Where 
ithere is open and unreserved communication this 
philosopher finds truth and unsought-for confirma- 
tion in harmony with the other. 

Philosophy must even leave the possibility of full 
communication in uncertainty, though it lives by 
faith in communication and stakes everything on 
communication. We can believe in it but not know it. 
To believe that we possess it is to have lost it. 

For there are terrible limits which philosophical 
jthought has never recognized as definitive: limits at 
'which we forget or at which we accept and recognize 
Qotions which we have not thoroughly elucidated. 
Alas, we talk so much when what really matters can 
be stated so simply, not in a universal proposition to 
be sure, but in a concrete symbol. 

In the face of perversions, involvements, and con- 
fusions, modern man calls the doctor. And indeed 
there are diseases and neuroses which strongly effect 
Dur mental condition. The attempt to diagnose them, 
to understand them, to treat them is perfectly real- 
stic. There is no reason to shun the human agency of 
the physician, when through critical experience he has 
gained real knowledge and ability. But certain 
modern developments in the field of psychotherapy 
ire no longer grounded in medical science but in 
philosophy, so that like any other philosophical 
flfort they demand to be examined from the point of 
view of ethics and metaphysics. 

The goal of a philosophical life cannot be formu- 
ated as a state of being, which is attainable and once 



attained, perfect. Our states of being are only manifesta- 
tions of existential striving or failure. It lies in our very 
nature to be on-the-way. We strive to cut across* 
time. That is possible only in polarities : i 

Only when we exist entirely in this time of ouri 
historicity can we experience something of the eternal { 
present. | 

Only as determinate men, each in his specificity, can | 
we experience humanity as such. | 

Only when we experience our own age as our 
Comprehensive reality can we apprehend this age as 
part of the unity of history, and this unity of history as 
part of eternity. 

In our ascending journey the primal source grows 
clearer for us behind our empirical states, but there is 
constant danger that it will return to obscurity. 

The ascent of philosophical life is the ascent of the 
individual man. He must accomplish it as an individual 
in communication and cannot shift responsibility to 

We achieve this ascent in the historically concrete, 
elective acts of our Hfe, not by electing any so-called 
Weltanschauung laid down in propositions. 

And now, in conclusion, let us venture a metaphor 
that may characterize the situation of philosophy in 
the temporal world: 

Having oriented himself on secure dry land — 
through realistic observation, through the special 
sciences, through logic and methodology — the 
philosopher, at the limits of this land, explores the 
world of ideas over tranquil paths. And now like a 
butterfly he flutters over the ocean shore, darting out( 

130 ! 


over the water; he spies a ship in which he would 
like to go on a voyage of discovery, to seek out the 
one thing which as transcendence is present in his 
existence. He peers after the ship — the method of 
philosophical thought and philosophical life — the 
ship which he sees and yet can never fully reach; and 
he struggles to reach it, sometimes strangely staggering 
and reeling. 

We are creatures of this sort, and we are lost if we 
relinquish our orientation to the dry land. But we 
are not content to remain there. That is why our 
flutterings are so uncertain and perhaps so absurd 
to those who sit secure and content on dry land, and 
ire intelligible only to those who have been seized by 
the same unrest. For them the world is a point of 
departure for that flight upon which everything 
[lepends, which each man must venture on his own 
though in common with other men, and which can 
lever become the object of any doctrine. 




Philosophy is as old as religion and olden 
than the churches. In the stature and purity of its; 
champions and in the integrity of its spirit it has 
usually, though not always, been on a level with the 
world of the church, whose rights it recognizes in its 
specific sphere. But without sociological form of its 
own it has been helpless in its confrontation with the , 
church. It has enjoyed the accidental protection of 
powers in the world, including the church. It requires j 
favourable sociological situations in order to reveal! 
itself in objective works. Its authentic reality is open 
to every man at all times, and it is in some formi 
omnipresent wherever there are men. 

The churches are for all, philosophy for individuals. 
The churches are visible organizations, wielding 
power over masses of men in the world. Philosophy is 
an expression of a realm of minds linked with one 
another through all peoples and ages; it is represented! 
by no institution which excludes or welcomes. 

As long as the churches have ties with the Eternal, 
their outward power exploits the innermost energies. 
As they draw the Eternal into the service of their power 
in the world, this power, like every other power in the 
world, grows sinister and evil. 

As long as philosophy remains in contact with eternal i 
truth it inspires without violence, it brings order to 



the soul, from its innermost source. But when it places 
its truth in the service of temporal powers it beguiles 
men to delude themselves for the benefit of their prac- 
tical concerns, it leads to anarchy of the soul. And 
when it aspires to be no more than a science it becomes 
an empty game, which is neither science nor philosophy. 
j Independent philosophy comes to no man of itself. 
No one is born into it. It must always be acquired 
anew. It can be apprehended only by him who 
perceives it out of his own source. The first ever-so- 
fleeting perception of it can fire a man with enthusiasm. 
The enthusiasm for philosophy is followed by the 
study of philosophy. 

The study of philosophy takes three forms: practical 
study, in the inward action of each day; specialized 
study, in the learning of the contents, the study of the 
sciences, of the categories, methods and systems; 
historical study, by which we make the philosophical 
tradition our own. The reality that speaks to him 
from the history of philosophy is for the philosopher 
what authority is for the churchman. 

If the history of philosophy is to further our own 
philosophical efforts, it must be understood in the 
broadest possible sense. 

The variety of philosophical manifestations is 
extraordinary. The Upanishads were conceived in the 
Indian villages and forests, apart from the world, by 
hermits or small groups of teachers and students; 
Kautilya was a minister who founded an empire, 
Confucius a teacher who wished to restore education 
and true political reality to his people; Plato was an 



aristocrat who felt that he could not engage in the 
political activity befitting his rank because of itsj 
moral degeneration: Bruno, Descartes, Spinoza j 
were solitary thinkers, without any institution behind 
them, seeking the truth for its own sake; Anselm was 
the founder of an ecclesiastical aristocracy; Thomas a 
servant of the church; Nicholas of Cusa a cardinal 
whose ecclesiastical and philosophical Hfe were one; I 
Machiavelli an unsuccessful statesman; Kant, Hegel, 
Schelhng, professors who developed their philosophies! 
in connection with their teaching. 

We must rid ourselves of the idea that philosophical 
activity as such is the affair of professors. It would 
seem to be the affair of man, under all conditions and 
circumstances, of the slave as of the ruler. We under- 
stand the historical manifestation of the truth only if we 
examine it in conjunction with the world in which it 
arose and the destinies of the men who conceived it. 
If these manifestations are remote and ahen to us, this 
in itself is illuminating. We must seek the philosophical 
idea and the thinker in their physical reality. The 
truth does not hover all alone in the air of abstraction. 

The history of philosophy comes alive for us when, 
by thorough study of a work and of the world in which 
it was produced, we participate as it were in that work. 

After that we seek perspectives which will accord 
us a view of the history of philosophy as a whole, in 
schemas which, though questionable, serve as guides 
by which to orient ourselves in so vast a region. 

The whole of the history of philosophy throughout : 
two and a half millennia is like a single vast moment : 



n the growing self-awareness of man. This moment 
;nay be looked upon as a never-ending discussion, 
disclosing clashes of forces, questions that seem in- 
joluble, subHme works and regressions, profound 
truth and a turmoil of error. 

■ In our study of the history of philosophy we seek a 
framework in which to situate philosophical ideas. 
Only through the history of philosophy as a whole can 
we learn how philosophy developed in relation to the 
[most diverse social and pohtical conditions and 
[personal situations. 

j Philosophy developed independently in China, 
kndia, and the West. Despite occasional intercom- 
knunication, these three worlds were so sharply 
Separate down to the time of Christ's birth that each 
K)ne must in the main be studied in its own terms. 
IMter this date the strongest influence was that of 
llndian Buddhism on China, comparable to that of 
Christianity on the Western world. 

In the three worlds the development follows a 
similar curve. After a preliminary history which 
it is difficult to clarify, the fundamental ideas rose 
'everywhere in the axial age (800-200 b.c). After this 
there was a period of dissolution in the course of 
which the great religions of redemption were con- 
soHdated; there were recurrent periods of renewal; 
there were all-embracing systems (Scholasticism) and 
logical speculations of subUme metaphysical import, 
, carried to the utmost extreme. 

I What was the specific Western character of this 

I synchronistic development? First it consisted in a 

greater dynamism, bringing with it constant crises and 



developments; second, in the greater diversity of 
languages and peoples manifesting the ideas; and 
third, in the unique development of Western science. 

Western philosophy falls historically into four 
periods : 

First : Greek philosophy travelled the path from myth 
to logos, created the basic Western concepts, the 
categories and fundamental conceptions of being as a 
whole, of the world and man. For us it remains the 
archetype of simplicity; in making it our own we 
preserve our clarity. 

Second: Christian-medieval philosophy travelled the 
path from biblical religion to its conceptual under- 
standing, from revelation to theology. It was more than 
a conservative pedagogic Scholasticism. Creative 
thinkers, chief among them St. Paul, St. Augustine, 
Martin Luther, disclosed a world which in its source 
was religious and philosophical in one. For us it 
remains to preserve alive in our minds the secret of 
Christianity as manifested in this wide realm of 

Third: Modern European philosophy arose hand in 
hand with modern natural science and man's new 
personal rejection of all authority. Kepler and 
Galileo on the one hand, Bruno and Spinoza on the 
other represent the new roads. For us it remains to 
preserve the true meaning of science as they appre- 
hended it — although it was also perverted from the 
very outset — and of spiritual freedom. 

Fourth: The philosophy of German idealism. From 
Lessing and Kant to Hegel and Schelling we have a 
series of thinkers who perhaps excel all previous 



Western thought in contemplative depth. Without 
the background of a great political and social reality, 
working in privacy and seclusion, filled with the 
whole of history and the cosmos, rich in the speculative 
art of thought and in visions of human contents, 
though they had no real world, they erected great 
works which contained a world. For us it remains to 
gain from them as much as possible of the depth and 
scope which otherwise would be lost. 

Up to the seventeenth century and even longer all 
Western thought was guided by the ancients, the 
Bible, St. Augustine. Since the eighteenth century 
this has gradually ceased to be so. Since then thinkers 
have believed that they could build without history, 
upon their own reason alone. While traditional 
thought vanished as an effective force, there developed 
a learned approach to the history of philosophy, but 
it was limited to a few men. Today scholarly editions 
and reference works have made the tradition more 
easily accessible than ever before. 

In the twentieth century there has been an acceler- 
ated tendency to forget the millennial foundations in 
favour of diffuse technical knowledge and skills, of 
scientific superstition, illusory worldly aims, and 
intellectual passivity. 

By the middle of the nineteenth century men began 
to feel that an end had come and to ask themselves 
whether philosophy was still possible. The continuity 
of modern philosophy in the Western countries, the 
professorial philosophy of Germany, cultivating a 
historic sense of the great tradition, could not hide the 
fact that a form of philosophical thought which had 



endured for a thousand years was drawing to a close. ] 
The representative philosophers of the epoch are| 
Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, thinkers of a type which 
had formerly not existed, clearly related to the crisis of 
this age; and Marx who, intellectually a world apart 
from them, excelled all modern philosophers in mass 

An extreme thinking became possible, which 
questioned everything in order to penetrate to the 
profoundest source, which shook off all encumbrances 
in order to free the vision for an insight into existence, 
the unconditional, and actuality, in a world that had 
been radically transformed by the technological age. 

We draw up schemas of this sort in envisaging the 
history of philosophy as a whole. They are super- 
ficial. In our search for deeper meanings we may 
touch on such questions as these: 

First: Is there a unity in the history of philosophy? This 
unity is not fact but idea. We seek it but attain only to 
particular unities. 

Certain problems (such as the relation between 
body and soul) come into focus at various times, but 
the historical factors coincide only partially with a 
logical construction of the ideas. Progressions of 
systems can be shown; it can be shown, for example, 
how, as Hegel saw it, German philosophy and 
ultimately all philosophy culminated in his own 
system. But constructions of this sort do violence to the 
facts, they fail to take into account those elements in 
earlier philosophical thought which are fatal to 
Hegelian thinking and are hence ignored by Hegel; 



^he philosophers who erect them tend to neglect the 
/ery essence of other men's thinking. No construction 
)f the history of philosophy as a logically coherent 
;eries of positions coincides with historical fact. 

Any unified construction we can give to the history 
Df philosophy is vitiated by the genius of the individual 
Dhilosopher. Despite all demonstrable ties and in- 
iuences, greatness remains an incomparable miracle, 
:juite apart from the development that is accessible 
o our understanding. 

The idea of a unity in the history of philosophy may 
pply to that perennial philosophy which is internally 
ne, which creates its historical organs and structures, 
ts garments and tools, but is not identical with them. 
Second: The beginning and its significance. The be- 
ginning is the first appearance of an idea, at some 
moment in time. The source is the fundamental truth 
that is always present. 

From misunderstandings and perversions of thought 
e must at all times return to the source. Instead of 
jseeking this source by following the guidance of 
meaningful, transmitted texts, some thinkers fall 
into the error of seeking it in temporal beginnings : 
e.g., in the first pre-Socratic philosophers, in early 
Christianity, in early Buddhism. The journey to the 
source which is always necessary assumes the false 
form of a search for the beginnings. 

It is true that those beginnings which are still 
attainable exert a powerful spell. But an absolute 
beginning cannot be found. What passes in our 
tradition for a beginning is a relative beginning and 
was itself the product of earlier development. 



Hence it is a fundamental principle of historical 
study that in examining transmitted texts we restrict 
ourselves to their real content. Only through a histor- 
ical attitude can we deepen our insight into what has 
been preserved. There is nothing to be gained by 
reconstituting what has been lost, by reconstructing 
earlier phases, by filling in gaps. 

Third: Can we speak of development and progress in 
philosophy? We can observe certain lines of develop- 
ment, for example: from Socrates to Plato and 
Aristotle, from Kant to Hegel, from Locke to Hume. 
But even such sequences are false if we take them to 
mean that the later thinker preserved and transcended 
the truth of his predecessor. Even where generations 
are thus visibly linked, the new is not encompassed in 
what went before. The successor often relinquishes the 
essence of the earlier thought, sometimes he no longer 
even understands it. 

There are worlds of intellectual exchange which 
endure for a time, to which the individual thinker 
contributes his word, as for example, Greek philos- 
ophy, Scholastic philosophy, the "German philos- 
ophical movement" from 1760 to 1840. These are 
epochs of living communion in original thought. 
There are other epochs in which philosophy endures 
as pedagogy, others in which it almost seems to have 

The total view of the history of philosophy as a 
progressive development is misleading. The history 
of philosophy resembles the history of art in that its 
supreme works are irreplaceable and unique. It 
resembles the history of science in that its tools — 



bategories and methods — have mukipHed and are 
used with greater understanding. It resembles the 
history of rehgion in that it constitutes a succession 
of original acts of faith, though here expressed in 
terms of ideas. 

The history of philosophy also has its creative 
epochs. But philosophy is at all times an essential 
preoccupation of man. It differs from other branches 
of spiritual endeavour in that a philosopher of the 
first order can suddenly appear in a supposed period 
of decadence. Plotinus in the third century, Scotus 
Erigena in the ninth century are isolated figures, 
unique summits. Their terminology fits into the 
tradition, possibly all their ideas derive from it, and 
yet as a whole they contribute a new fundamental 
pattern of thought. 

Hence the very nature of philosophy forbids us to 
say that it is at an end. Philosophy endures in every 
catastrophe, in the thoughts of a few men, and in the 
isolated works which somehow appear in ages that are 
otherwise spiritually barren. Philosophy like religion 
exists at all times. 

Another reason why development is a meaningless 
concept for the history of philosophy is that every 
great philosophy is complete and whole in itself, 
living by its own right, without reference to any 
broader historical truth. Science progresses step by 
step. But philosophy by its very nature must achieve 
wholeness in each individual man. Hence it is in- 
congruous to speak of this or that philosopher as a 
mere milestone or precursor. 

Fourth : Can philosophers be classified by order of rank? 



Certain thinkers and epochs make it plain that the 
history of philosophy has its gradations. It is no level 
field in which all works and thinkers stand on an 
equal footing. There are heights of vision to which 
only a few have attained. And there are great men, 
suns amid the hosts of stars. But this does not mean 
that we can set up a definitive hierarchy which would 
carry conviction for everyone. 

It is a far remove from the opinions held generally 
in a given epoch to the content of the philosophical 
works created in that epoch. That which the under- 
standing of all men looks upon as self-evident, hence 
requiring no interpretation, can be expressed in the 
form of philosophy just as well as the great philosophic 
ideas that are susceptible of endless interpretation. A 
tranquil, limited vision and contentment with the 
world thus seen; the yearning for the unknown; and 
questioning at the limits — all these are philosophy. 

We have spoken of an analogy between the history 
of philosophy and the authority of religious tradition. 
True, philosophy has no canonical books such as 
those possessed by the religions, no authority which 
need simply be followed, no definitive truth which 
simply exists. But the historical tradition of philosophy 
as a whole, this deposit of inexhaustible truth, shows 
us the roads to our present philosophical endeavour. 
The tradition is the profound truth of past thought, 
toward which we look with never-ending expectancy; 
it is something unfathomable in the few great v/orks; 
it is the reahty of the great thinkers, received with 



The tradition is an authority that cannot be obeyed 
with certainty. It is incumbent upon us to come to 
ourselves through it by our own experience, to find 
our own source in its source. 

j Only in the seriousness of present philosophical 
jithinking can we gain contact with eternal philosophy 
jin its historical manifestation. It is through the his- 
torical manifestation that we gain the profound ties 
that can unite us in a common present. 

Thus historical research is conducted on various 
jlevels. In his approach to the texts the conscientious 
[Student of philosophy knows on which plane he is 
j moving. He must gain intelligent mastery of the 
"facts." But the end and summit of historical study 
jlies in the moments of communion in the source. It is 
then that the light dawns which gives meaning and 
unity to all factual research. Without this centre, this 
philosophical source, the history of philosophy would 
be a mere record of fallacies and curiosities. 

Once it has awakened me, history becomes the 
mirror of what is my own : in its image I see what I 
myself think. 

The history of philosophy — a space in which I 
think and breathe — reveals in inimitable perfection 
prototypes for my own searching. By its attempts, its 
successes and failures, philosophy raises the question. 
It encourages me through the example of those men 
who have unswervingly followed its arduous path. 

To take a past philosophy as our own is no more 
possible than to produce an old work of art for a 
second time. At best we can produce a deceptive copy. 
We have no text, like pious Bible readers, in which we 



may hope to find absolute truth. We love the old texts 
as we love old works of art, our hearts go out to them, 
we immerse ourselves in their truth, but there re- 
mains in them something remote and unattainable, , 
unfathomable, though it is something with which we: 
always live, something which starts us on the way to \ 
our present philosophizing. 

For philosophy is essentially concerned with the 
present. We have only one reality, and that is here and 
now. What we miss by our evasions will never return, 
but if we squander ourselves, then too we lose being. 
Each day is precious : a moment can be everything. 

We are remiss in our task if we lose ourselves in the 
past or future. Only through present reality can we 
gain access to the timeless; only in apprehending 
time can we attain to that sphere where all time is 





.HiLOsoPHYHASFROMits vcry beginnings looked 
ipon itself as science, indeed as science par excellence. 
To achieve the highest and most certain knowledge is 
he goal that has always animated its devotees. 

How its scientific character came to be questioned 
;an be understood only in the light of the development 
)f the specifically modern sciences. These sciences made 
heir greatest strides in the nineteenth century, largely 
jutside philosophy, often in opposition to philosophy, 
^nd finally in an atmosphere of indifference to it. If 
philosophy was still expected to be a science, it was in a 
different sense than before; it was now expected to be a 
cience in the same sense as those modern sciences that 
ponvince by virtue of their accomplishments. If it were 
Lmable to do so, it was argued, it had become pointless 
ind might just as well die out. 

Some decades ago the opinion was widespread that 
philosophy had had its place up to the moment when 
3.11 the sciences had become independent of it, the 
briginal universal science. Now that all possible fields 
Df research have been marked oflT, the days of philo- 
sophy are over. Now that we know how science obtains 
ts universal validity, it has become evident that philo- 
sophy cannot stand up against judgment by these 
:riteria. It deals in empty ideas because it sets up 

* Reprinted by permission of the Partisan Review, 


undemonstrable hypotheses, it disregards experience, it 
seduces by illusions, it takes possession of energies 
needed for genuine investigation and squanders them 
in empty talk about the whole. 

This was the picture of philosophy as seen against 
science conceived as methodical, cogent, universally 
valid insight. Under such circumstances could any 
philosophy legitimately claim to be scientific? To this" 
situation philosophy reacted in two ways : I 

i)The attack was regarded as justified. Philosophers ■ 
withdrew to limited tasks. If philosophy is at an end j 
because the sciences have taken over all its subject j 
matter, there remains nevertheless the knowledge of its I 
history, first as a factor in the history of the sciences | 
themselves, then as a phenomenon in the history of 
thought, the history of the errors, the anticipated in- | 
sights, the process of liberation by which philosophy ; 
has made itself superfluous. Finally, the history of j 
philosophy must preserve the knowledge of the 
philosophical texts, if only for their aesthetic interest. 
Although these texts do not make any serious contri- 
bution to scientific trutli, they are nevertheless worth 
reading for the sake of their style and the intellectual 
attitude they reflect. 

Others paid tribute to the modern scientific trend by 
rejecting all previous philosophy and striving to give 
philosophy an exact scientific foundation. They seized 
upon questions which, they claimed, were reserved for 
philosophy because they concern all the sciences; 
namely, logic, epistemology, phenomenology. In an 
effort to refurbish its reputation, philosophy became a 
servile imitator, a handmaiden to the sciences. It 



broceeded to establish in theory the vahdity of scienti- 
ic knowledge, which was not questioned anyhow. But 
:n the field of logic it developed a specialized science 
j/vhich because of the universaHty of its purpose, i.e., to 
lefine the form of all true thinking, to provide a 
nathesis universalis, seemed capable of replacing all 
previous philosophy. Today many thinkers regard 
Symbolic logic as the whole of philosophy. 
I This first reaction seems today to have given rise to 
|;he view that philosophy is a science among other 
Iciences, a discipline among other disciphnes. And Hke 
;he others, it is carried on by specialists, it has its 
larrow circle of experts, its congresses, and its learned 

2) In opposition to this infatuation with science there 
las been a second reaction. Philosophy attempted to 
ave itself from destruction by dropping its claim to 
cientific knowledge. Philosophy — according to this 
;iew — is not a science at all. It is based on feeling and 
ntuition, on imagination and genius. It is conceptual 
nagic, not knowledge. It is elan vital or resolute 
Acceptance of death. Indeed, some went further and 
,aid : It does not behoove philosophy to concern itself 
ivith science since it is aware that all scientific truth 
Is questionable. The modern sciences are altogether in 
Tror, witness the ruinous consequences for the soul and 
or Ufe in general of the rational attitude. Philosophy 
tself is not a science, and for that very reason its 
blement is authentic truth. 

Both reactions — submission to science and rejection 
)f science conceived as cogent, methodical, and 
iniversally vaUd knowledge — seem to spell the end 



of philosophy. Whether it is the slave of science on 
whether it denies all science, it has in either easel 
ceased to be philosophy. i 

The seeming triumph of the sciences over philosophy! 
has for some decades created a situation in which! 
philosophers go back to various sources in search of 
true philosophy. If such a thing is found, the ques-j 
tion of the relation between philosophy and science*! 
will be answered, both in a theoretical and in ai 
concrete sense. It is a practical question of the utmost! 

We shall appreciate the full weight of this problem 
if we consider its historical origin. It developed from 
three complexly intertwined factors. These are a) the 
spirit of modern science; b) the ancient and evert 
recurrent attempt to achieve universal philosophical! 
knowledge ; c) the philosophical concept of truth, as iti 
was first and for all time elucidated in Plato. 

Ad a) The modern sciences, developed only in the 
last few centuries, have brought into the world a new 
scientific attitude which existed neither in Asia nor in 
antiquity nor in the Middle Ages. 

Even the Greeks, to be sure, conceived of science as 
methodical, cogently certain, and universally valid 
knowledge. But the modern sciences not only have 
brought out these basic attributes of science with 
greater purity (a task which has not yet been com- 
pleted), they have also given new form and new 
foundation to the purpose, scope, and unity of their 
fields of inquiry. I shall indicate certain of their 
fundamental characteristics : 



1 ) To modern science nothing is indifferent. In its eyes 
svery fact, even the smallest and ugliest, the most 
distant and most alien, is a legitimate object of inquiry 
for the very reason that it exists. Science has become 
truly universal. There is nothing that can evade it. 
Nothing must be hidden or passed over in silence; 
nothing must remain a mystery. 

2) Modern science is by definition unfinished, 
because it progresses toward the infinite, whereas 
ancient science in every one of its forms presented itself 
as finished; its actual development was in every case 
short lived, and it never set its own development as its 
.conscious goal. Modern scientists have understood that 
an all-embracing world-system, which deduces every- 
;hing that exists from one or a few principles, is impos- 
ible. A world-system has other sources and can only 
:laim universal validity if scientific critique is relaxed 
and particulars are mistaken for absolutes. Such 
unprecedented systematizations as those achieved by 
modern physics cover only one aspect of reality. 
Through them reality as a whole has become more 
split up and deprived of foundations than it ever 
before seemed to the human mind. Hence the incom- 
pleteness of the modern world as compared to the 
Greek cosmos. 

3) The ancient sciences remained scattered^ unrelated 
to one another. They did not aim at constituting an 
all-embracing body of specific knowledge, whereas the 
modern sciences strive to be integrated into a universal 
frame of reference. Though a true world-system is no 
longer possible for them, a cosmos of the sciences is still 
conceivable. Our sense of the inadequacy of each 



special branch of knowledge demands that each science 
be connected with knowledge as a whole. i 

4) The modern sciences attach Uttle value to the« 
possibilities of thought ; they recognize the idea only in! 
definite and concrete knowledge, after it has proved itsi 
worth as an instrument of discovery and been subjected 
to infinite modifications in the process of investigation. 
True, there is a certain similarity between ancient and 
modern atomic theory, in so far as the general pattern 
is concerned. But the ancient theory was merely an 
intrinsically finished interpretation of possibilities, 
based on plausible explanations of available ex- 
perience, while the modern theory, in constant associa- 
tion with experience, undergoes perpetual change b^j 
confirmation and disproof and is itself an implement ol 
investigation. 1 

5) Today a scientific attitude has become possible, 
an attitude of inquiry toward all phenomena; today] 
the scientist can know certain things clearly andj 
definitely, he can distinguish between what he knowsl 
and what he does not know; and he has amassed anj 
unprecedented abundance of knowledge (how very 
little the Greek physician or the Greek technician knewj 
by comparison!). The moral imperative of modern 
science is to search for reliable knowledge on the basis 
of unprejudiced inquiry and critique, without any 
preconceived ideas. When we enter into its sphere, we 
have the sensation of breathing clean air, of leaving 
behind us all vague talk, all plausible opinions, all 
stubborn prejudice and blind faith. 

Ad b) Modern science shares the age-old striving for 
total philosophical knowledge. Philosophy had from the 



St set itself up as the science that knows the whole — 
bt as infinitely progressing, factual knowledge but as 
!ilf-contained doctrine. Now modern philosophy since 
)escartes has identified itself with modern science but 
1 such a way that it still retained the philosophical 
oncept of a total knowledge. It can be shown, how- 
ver, that for this very reason Descartes did not under- 
hand modern science, the investigations of Galileo for 
sample, and that his own work had in spirit little to 
b with modern science, although as a creative 
liathematician he helped to advance this science. The 
hsuing philosophers, even to a certain extent Kant, 
'ere still caught in this totalist conception of science, 
legel once again believed that he was achieving the 
instruction of an authentic total science and that he 
pssessed all the sciences in his cosmos of the mind. 
I This identification of modern science and modern 
hilosophy with their old aspiration to total knowledge 
as catastrophic for both of them. The modern sciences 
hich, by a self-deception common to all of them, 
)oked on those great philosophies of the seventeenth 
mtury and on some later philosophies as pillars of 
leir own edifice were tainted by their aspirations to 
bsolute knowledge. Modern philosophy has done its 
reatest work only "in spite of" all this, or one might 
ly, by a constant misunderstanding. 
Ad c) Neither the modern concept of science nor 
nence in the sense of a total philosophical system 
Dincides with the strictly philosophical conception of 
:ience which Plato formulated in a way that has never 
een surpassed. How far removed is the truth, the 
nowledge of which Plato interprets in his parable of 



the cave and touches on in his dialectic, this truth that 
applies to being and to that which is above all being — 
how fundamentally different it is from the truth of the 
sciences, which move only amid the manifestations oi 
being without ever attaining to being itself, and how 
different from the truth of the dogmatic system which i 
holds itself to be in possession of the whole of being. I 
What a distance between the truth which can nowhere 
be set down in writing but which, according to Plato's 
seventh epistle, though it can only be attained by 
thought, is kindled in a favourable moment of com- 
munication among men of understanding, and the 
truth which is written, universally cogent and in- 
telligible, distinct and available to all thinking 
creatures ! 

Three so different conceptions of scientific know- 
ledge — the first patterned on the method of modern 
science, the second derived from the idea of a total 
philosophical system, and the third related to faith in a 
truth which is directly apprehended by the intellect 
(Plato's truth being an example) — all contribute to the 
present confusion. An example: 

Its inquiries and investigations in the economic field 
have made Marxism an important force in scientific 
development. But this it shares with many other trends, 
and its scientific contribution does not account for its 
influence. Marxism also represents a philosophical 
thesis regarding the dialectical course of history as a 
total process which it purports to understand. Thus it 
constitutes a philosophical doctrine but one with ai, 
claim to universal scientific validity. It has the same: 



^pistemological basis as Hegel's philosophy, whose 
'dialectical method remains its implement. The differ- 
ence is only that for Hegel the core of the historical 
process lies in what he calls the "idea," while for 
■ Marx it lies in the mode of production of man who, 
unlike the animals, obtains his sustenance through 
systematic labour. Both Hegel and Marx derive all 
phenomena from what they regard as the core. Marx 
itherefore rightly claims to have stood Hegel on his 
head; that however is only in content, for he did not 
depart from Hegel's method of constructing reality 
by the dialectic of the concept. 

Now this identification of economic knowledge, 
||Which is gained by scientific method, hence inductively, 
and which by its very nature is subject to constant 
modifications, with the dialectical knowledge of the 
total process, which passes for essentially definitive 
iknowledge, is the source of the fallacy committed by 
JHegel and in a different form by the type of modern 
philosophy that began with Descartes and was repeated 
by Marx. Marx's absolute, exclusive claim therefore 
originates in a conception of philosophy as total, 
systematic knowledge; but at the same time, his 
doctrine is presented as a result of modern science, 
from which it does not at all follow. 

In addition to the conceptions patterned on modern 
science and total philosophy, there operates in Marxisui 
also a third conception, reflecting the lofty idea of an 
absolute truth that fulfils man's will and aspirations, 
analogous to the Platonic idea of truth, although 
entirely different in character. Marxism conceives of 
itself as the true consciousness of the classless man. 



This quasi-religious postulate is the source of a newp 
kind of fanaticism which invokes not faith but modern S* 
science, which charges its opponents with stupidity, jiif 
malice, or inability to overcome class prejudice andj 
contrasts these with its own universal human truth thatj 
is free from class bondage and hence absolute. { 

Similar intellectual tendencies, which uncriticallylits 
hypostatize a field of investigation that is meaningful W 
within its limits into a total science and infuse it with aire 
religious attitude, have been manifested in the domains di 
of racial theory and psychoanalysis and in many other Ini 
fields. I|b 

The false confusion of heterogeneous elements jsc 
produces here, on a large scale, results that are so 
familiar on a small scale in everyday fife — an attitude 
of never being at a loss for an answer, satisfaction with 
mere plausibility, stubbornly uncritical statements andjci 
affirmations, inability to explore in a genuine sense, to I 
listen, analyse, test, and reflect on principles. 

The infuriating part of it is that science is invoked to 
defend something that runs directly counter to the 
scientific spirit. For science leads us to the understand- 
ing of the principles, limitations, and meaning of our 
knowledge. It teaches us to know, in full consciousness 
of the methods by which each stage of knowledge is 
achieved. It produces a certainty whose relativity, i.e., 
dependence on presuppositions and methods of 
investigation, is its crucial characteristic. 

Thus we are today confronted with an ambivalent 
concept of science. Genuine science can, as has always 
been the case, appear to be occult; it is in the nature of 
a public secret. It is public because it is accessible to 



veryone ; it is a secret because it is far from being truly 
mderstood by everyone. All the more brightly shines 
he genuine, unswerving, never-faiHng scientific atti- 
ude, whose very critical awareness of its limits leaves 
oom for every other source of truth in man. 

In addition there is a wonderful virtue in science 
belf In the course of scientific development only 
vhat is truly known is permanently preserved, the 
est is eliminated through critique. So long as free 
iiscussion prevails, a body of knowledge forms that is 
nore than the men who are its vehicle, a body of 
mowledge that no individual can encompass in all its 

At a time when confusion prevails regarding the 
neaning of science, three tasks are imperative, 
:orresponding to the three tendencies discussed above. 

First, the idea that total philosophical knowledge is 
scientific knowledge must be exposed as false. The 
sciences themselves critically explode this false total 
knowledge. It is here that the opposition to philosophy 
has its root, and in this respect contempt of it is 

I Second, the sciences must be made pure. This can be 
iaccomplished through constant struggle and awareness 
in the course of our scientific activity itself. By and 
large, the need for basic clarity concerning science and 
its limits is readily admitted even by those who sin 
against such clarity in practice. But the essential is to 
achieve this purity within the specific sciences. This 
must be done largely through the critical work of the 
scientists themselves. But the philosopher who wishes 



to test the truth-meaning of scientific knowledge, t( 
auscuhate it, so to speak, must participate in the actua 
work of these scientists. 

Third, a pure philosophy must be worked out in tbjkr' 
new conditions that have been created by the moderr 
sciences. This is indispensable for the sake of the sciencei 
themselves. For philosophy is always alive in ihi¥ 
sciences and so inseparable from them that the purity o: ' 
both can be achieved only jointly. The rejection oi 
philosophy usually leads to the unwitting development 
of a bad philosophy. The concrete work of the scientisi 
is guided by his conscious or unconscious philosophy, 
and this philosophy cannot be the object of scientific 

For example: It is impossible to prove scientifically 
that there should be such a thing as science. Or: The 
choice of an object of science that is made from amongjo] 
an infinite number of existing objects on the basis of i' 
this object itself is a choice that cannot be justified 
scientifically. Or : The ideas that guide us are tested in 
the systematic process of investigation, but they them- 
selves do not become an object of direct investigation. 

Science left to itself as mere science becomes home- 
less. The intellect is a whore, said Nicholas of Cusa, for 
it can prostitute itself to anything. Science is a whore, 
said Lenin, for it sells itself to any class interest. For 
Nicholas of Cusa it is Reason, and ultimately the 
knowledge of God, that gives meaning, certainty, and 
truth to intellectual knowledge; for Lenin, it is the 
classless society that promotes pure science. Be that as 
it may, awareness of all this is the business of philoso- 
phical reflection. Philosophy is inherent in the actual 




idences themselves; it is their inner meaning that 
jrovides the scientist with sustenance and guides his 
jiethodical work. He who consolidates this guidance 
urough reflection and becomes conscious of it has 
;:ached the stage of explicit philosophizing. If this 
jaidance fails, science falls into gratuitous convention, 
leaningless correctness, aimless busy-ness, and spine- 
,ss servitude. 
A pure science requires a pure philosophy. 

But how can philosophy be pure? Has it not always 
riven to be science? Our answer is: It is "science" 

t science of such a sort that in the sense of modern 
ientific inquiry it is both less and more than science. 

Philosophy can be called science in so far as it 
resupposes the sciences. There is no tenable philo- 
)phy outside the sciences. Although conscious of its 
istinct character, philosophy is inseparable from 
ience. It refuses to transgress against universally 
inding insight. Anyone who philosophizes must be 
imiliar with scientific method. 

Any philosopher who is not trained in a scientific 
iscipline and who fails to keep his scientific interests 
onstantly alive will inevitably bungle and stumble 
nd mistake uncritical rough drafts for definitive 
nowledge. Unless an idea is submitted to the coldly 
ispassionate test of scientific inquiry, it is rapidly 
onsumed in the fire of emotions and passions, or else 
: withers into a dry and narrow fanaticism. 

Moreover, anyone who philosophizes strives for 
:ientific knowledge, for it is the only way to genuine 
onknowledge, it is as though the most magnificent 




insights could be achieved only through man's quesi 
for the limit at which cognition runs aground, not 
seemingly and temporarily but genuinely and de 
finitively, not with a sense of loss and despair but with!' 
a sense of genuine internal evidence. Only definitive ' 
knowledge can make definitive nonknowledge possible; 
it alone can achieve the authentic failure which opens' 
up a vista, not merely upon the discoverable existent;^ 
but upon being itself j ' 

In accomplishing the great task of dispelling all 
magical conceptions, modern science enters upon thel 
path that leads to the intuition of the true depth, the 
authentic mystery, which becomes present only 
through the most resolute knowledge in the consumma- 
tion of nonknowledge. 

Consequently philosophy turns against those who 
despise the sciences, against the sham prophets who 
deprecate scientific inquiry, who mistake the errors of 
science for science itself, and who would even hold 
science, " modern science," responsible for the evils and 
the inhumanity of our era. 

Rejecting superstitious belief in science as well as 
contempt of science, philosophy grants its uncondi- 
tional recognition to modern science. In its eyes 
science is a marvellous thing which can be relied upon 
more than anything else, the most significant achieve- 
ment of man in his history, an achievement that is the 
source of great dangers but of even greater opportunities 
and that from now on must be regarded as a pre- 
requisite of all human dignity. Without science, the 
philosopher knows, his own pursuits eventuate in 

1 60 


These pursuits can continue to be called scientific 
)ecause philosophy proceeds methodically and because 
t is conscious of its methods. But these methods differ 
rom those of science in that they have no object of 
inquiry. Any specific object is the object of a particular 
jcience. Were I to say that the object of philosophy is 
jhe whole, the world, being, philosophical critique 
A^ould answer that such terms do not denote genuine 
objects. The methods of philosophy are methods of 
Tanscending the object. To philosophize is to trans- 
cend. But since our thinking is inseparable from objects, 
che history of philosophy is an account of how the 
progress of human thought has succeeded in trans- 
cending the objects of philosophy. These objects, the 
^reat creations of philosophy, function as road signs, 
indicating the direction of philosophical transcending. 
Thus there is no substitute for the profound discourse 
of the metaphysician, which speaks to us from the 
centuries ; to assimilate it from its source in the history 
of philosophy is not only to know something that once 
was but to make it come to hfe. 

The mass of sham philosophical knowledge taught in 
the schools originates in the hypostatization of entities 
that have served for a time as the signpost of philosophy 
but are always being transcended by it. Such hyposta- 
tized entities are nothing but the capita moriua, the 
ossuaries of the great metaphysical systems. To imagine 
that they confer knowledge is a philosophical perver- 
sion. In philosophizing we must not fall under the spell 
of the object that we use as a means of transcendence. 
We must remain masters of our thoughts and not be 
subjugated by them. 



Yet in this intellectual transcendence, which is 
proper to philosophy and which is analogous to 
scientific forms, philosophy is less than science. For it 
does not gain any tangible results or any intellectually 
binding insight. There is no overlooking the simple 
fact that while scientific cognition is identical through- 
out the world, philosophy, despite its claim to univer- 
saUty, is not actually universal in any shape or form. 
This fact is the outward characteristic of the peculiar 
nature of philosophical truth. Although scientific truth 
is universally valid, it remains relative to method and 
assumptions; philosophical truth is absolute for him 
who conquers it in historical actuality, but its state- 
ments are not universally valid. Scientific truth is one 
and the same for all — philosophical truth wears 
multiple historical cloaks ; each of these is the manifesta- 
tion of a unique reality, each has its justification, but 
they are not identically transmissible. 

The one philosophy is the philosophia perennis around 
which all philosophies revolve, which no one possesses, 
in which every genuine philosopher shares, and which 
nevertheless can never achieve the form of an intellec- 
tual edifice valid for all and exclusively true. 

Thus philosophy is not only less but also more than 
science, namely, as the source of a truth that is in- 
accessible to scientifically binding knowledge. It is this 
philosophy that is meant in such definitions as: To 
philosophize is to learn how to die or to rise to god- 
head — or to know being qua being. The meaning of 
such definitions is: Philosophical thought is inward 
action; it appeals to freedom; it is a summons to 
transcendence. Or the same thing can be formulated 



differently: Philosophy is the act of becoming con- 
cious of genuine being — or is the thinking of a faith in 
man that must be infinitely elucidated — or is the way 
of man's self-assertion through thinking. 

But none of these propositions is properly speaking a 
definition. There is no definition of philosophy, because 
philosophy cannot be determined by something out- 
Iside it. There is no genus above philosophy, under 
[which it can be subsumed as a species. Philosophy 
[defines itself, relates itself directly to godhead, and 
does not justify itself by any kind of utility. It grows out 
bf the primal source in which man is given to himself. 

To sum up : The sciences do not encompass all of the 
truth but only the exact knowledge that is binding to 
the intellect and universally valid. Truth has a greater 
scope, and part of it can reveal itself only to philoso- 
phical reason. Throughout the centuries since the early 
Middle Ages, philosophical works have been written 
under the title "On the Truth"; today the same task 
still remains urgent, i.e., to gain insight into the essence 
of truth in its full scope under the present conditions 
of scientific knowledge and historical experience. 

The foregoing considerations also apply to the 
relation between science and philosophy. Only if the 
two are strictly distinguished can the inseparable 
connection between them remain pure and truthful. 

Through research and study the university strives to 
achieve the great practical unity of the sciences and 
philosophy. At the university a philosophical view of 
the world has always been made manifest through 
scientific method. 



The university is the meeting place of all sciences. Ir 
so far as these remain an aggregate, the university 
resembles an intellectual warehouse; but in so far ajj 
they strive toward unity of knowledge, it resembles c\ 
never-finished temple. 

A century and a half ago this was still self-evident; 
the philosophical ideas that were assumed by the 
scientists in the various disciplines were brought to the 
highest light of consciousness by the philosophers. But 
the situation has changed. The sciences have become 
fragmented by specialization. It has come to be be-i 
Heved that scientific cognition, marked by the neatness! 
of universally valid particular knowledge, could break | 
away from philosophy. ! 

Is the present dispersion of the sciences the ultimate 
and necessary stage? One might wish for a philosophy 
that would encompass and assimilate the whole 
tradition, that would be equal to the intellectual 1 
situation of our time, that would express the contents 
common to all of us, and this both in sublime intellec- 
tual constructions and in simple propositions capable 
of finding resonance in every man. Today we have no 
such philosophy. 

Old university seals dating from the fifteenth century 
reveal figures wrought in gold which represent Christ 
distributing their tasks to the faculties. Even where 
such seals are still in use they no longer express the 
modern reality; yet they still bear witness to the task of 
unifying the whole. 

Today neither theology nor philosophy creates a 
whole. Does the university still have a common spirit? 
As regards its organization, it still seems to constitute 



m ever-changing plan without symmetry or logic, 
liever definitive, constantly in process of enlargement, 
I plan in which everything that achieves scientific 
jitatus has its place. The most disparate elements meet, 
i.^ot related by a knowledge of the whole, everyone is 
levertheless compelled to see in this meeting something 
previously unknown, everyone learns to come into 
Contact with highly unfamiliar things. Hence arises the 
ntellectual life, the striving for greater expanse and 
freedom of thought. Thus a common spirit is no longer 
found in a faith binding to all but only in critical 
inquiry as such, in the recognition of the logically or 
empirically unascertainable, in the resolute refusal to 
perpetrate the sacrificium intellectus, in open-minded- 
ness, in unlimited questioning, in integrity. 

This spirit is the product of the last few centuries. 

ill the university content itself 'with this spirit for- 
ever? For philosophy this situation seems to offer 
extraordinary possibilities. But it would be absurd to 
draw up a programme for a task that can be carried 
put only by an intellectual world operating with a true 
Sense of community, not by an individual. 

So long as the philosopher retains his integrity, he is 
modestly aware of the hmits of his knowledge. This 
must not be confused with another kind of modesty 
needed today, that of the teacher of philosophy. The 
best philosophers today are not perhaps to be found 
among those charged explicitly with the teaching of 
philosophy. For the philosophy in the sciences, which 
preserves us from dissipating our energies on things 
that are not worth knowing and which animates 
scientific inquiry, is the concrete philosophy that is 




embodied in the totality of a specific science. This 
philosophy thus becomes in a sense the spokesman for 
knowledge in general, provided that constant care is 
taken to see this particular domain in relation to all the 
knowable and thereby to anchor it in depth. 

The teacher of philosophy in the service of suchi 
efforts is not a leader who lays down the law but an 
attentive and patient listener, eager to find meaning in 
the broadest interrelations. I 

The teacher of philosophy reveres the individual! 
great philosophers, who are not specimens of a type but 
creators (such do not exist today), but he rejects the 
idolization of men, which began even in the academy 
of Plato, for even the greatest are men and err, and no 
one is an authority who must be obeyed by right. 

And the teacher of philosophy has respect for each 
science whose insights are binding — but he condemns 
the scientific pride which imagines that everything can 
be known in its ultimate foundation or even goes so far 
as to suppose that it is known. 

His ideal is that of a rational being coexisting with 
other rational beings. He wants to doubt, he thirsts for 
objections and attacks, he strives to become capable of 
playing his part in the dialogue of ever-deepening 
communication, which is the prerequisite of all truth 
and without which there is no truth. 

His hope is that in the same measure as he becomes 
a rational being he may acquire the profound contents 
which can sustain man, that his will, in so far as his 
striving is honest, may become good through the 
direct help of the transcendent, without any human 

1 66 


As a teacher of philosophy, however, he feels that it 
s his duty not to let his students forget the great minds 
bf the past, to preserve the various philosophical 
jnethods as an object of instruction, and to see to it 
{[hat the sciences influence philosophical thinking; to 
jblucidate the present age and at the same time to join 
tiis students in conquering a view of the eternal. 




If I t I s true that philosophy concerns man as man, it 
must He within our power to make it generally in- 
telligible. It must be possible to communicate briefly 
certain fundamental ideas, though not of course the 
complex operations of systematic philosophy. It has 
been my intention to give an intimation of those 
elements in philosophy which are the concern of every 
man. But in so doing I have endeavoured not to 
disregard the essential, even where it seemed in- 
trinsically difficult. 

The present lectures are little more than sketches, 
covering but a small segment of the possibilities of 
philosophical thought. Many great ideas are not even 
touched upon. My aim has been to encourage my 
listeners to reflect on these matters for themselves. 

For those who may seek guidance in their philoso- 
phical reflections I append what follows. 


Philosophical thought is concerned with the ulti- 
mate, the authentic which becomes present in real life. 
Every man as man philosophizes. 

But the developments of this thought cannot be 
understood at a glance. Systematic philosophy calls for 
study. Such study may be divided into three parts : 

First: Participation in scientific inquiry. From its two 



main roots in the natural sciences and in philology 
scientific discipline branches out into innumerable 
specialized fields. Experience in the sciences, their 
methods, their critical approach makes for the scien- 
tific attitude indispensable to honest philosophical 

I Second : The study of great philosophers . We cannot find 
our way to philosophy without a knowledge of its 
history. In his journey upward the student draws 
nourishment from the great works. But he can succeed 
in his journey only through actual participation, 
through his own philosophical thinking which is 
awakened in study. 

Third : A conscientious approach to the conduct of daily 
life, seriousness in crucial decisions, a sense of responsi- 
bility for our acts and experience. 

To achieve a clear and true philosophy we must 
devote ourselves to all three aspects. Everyone, and 
particularly every young man, must decide exactly 
how he means to approach them; he can apprehend 
only the minutest fraction of their potentialities. These 
questions arise : 

In which branch of science shall I seek specialized 

Which of the great philosophers shall I not only 
read but study intensively? 

How shall I live? 

Each man must answer these questions for himself 
The answer must not be a fixed formula, it must not be 
definitive or external. The young in particular must 
preserve themselves in a state of potentiality and 



I venture these maxims: proceed resolutely but do 
not run aground; test and correct, not haphazardly 
or arbitrarily but in a constructive spirit, retaining 
every experience as an effective force in your thinking. 


When I read I wish first of all to understand what 
the author meant to say. But in order to under- 
stand what he meant I must understand not only 
his language but his subject matter as well. My 
understanding will depend on my knowledge of the 

It is through the understanding of texts that we set 
out to acquire our knowledge of the subject. Hence we 
must think of the subject itself and at the same time of 
what the author meant. One without the other makes 
the reading fruitless. 

Since when I study a text I have the subject in mind, 
my understanding of the text undergoes an involuntary 
transformation. For a sound understanding both are 
necessary: immersion in the subject matter and return 
to a clear understanding of the author's meaning. In 
the first process I acquire philosophy, in the second 
historical insight. 

Reading should be undertaken in an attitude com- 
pounded of confidence in the author and love for the 
subject he has taken up. At first I must read as though 
everything stated in the text were true. Only after I 
have allowed myself to be completely carried away, 
after I have been in the subject matter and then re- 
emerged as it were from its centre, can meaningful 
criticism begin. 



How, in Studying the history of philosophy, we make 
past philosophy our own may be elucidated on the 
basis of the three Kantian imperatives : think for your- 
self; in your thinking put yourself in the place of every 
other man; think in unanimity with yourself These 
imperatives are endless tasks. Any anticipated solution 
making it appear that we have already fulfilled them is 
a delusion; we are always on our way to a solution. 
And in this history helps us. 

Independent thinking does not spring from the void. 
What we think must have roots in reality. The 
authority of tradition awakens in us the sources 
anticipated in faith, by contact with them in the 
beginnings and in the historical fulfilments of philoso- 
phical thought. Any further study presupposes tliis 
confidence. Without it we should not take upon our- 
selves the trouble of studying Plato or Kant. 

Our own philosophical thinking twines upward as it 
were round the historical figures. Through the under- 
standing of their texts we ourselves become philosophers. 
But this confident learning is not obedience. In this 
following we test our own essence. This "obedience" 
is a trusting to guidance; we begin by accepting 
something as true ; we do not break in immediately and 
constantly with critical reflections which paralyse 
what is our own true, though guided, movement. And 
this obedience is the respect which does not allow of 
easy criticism but only of a criticism which through our 
own conscientious eflfort comes closer and closer to the 
core of the matter until it is able to cope with it. 
The limit of obedience is that we recognize as true 
only what through our independent thinking has 



become our own conviction. No philosopher, not even 
the greatest, is in possession of the truth. Amicus Plato, 
magis arnica Veritas, 

We arrive at the truth in independent thinking only 
if in our thinking we strive constantly to put ourselves in 
the place of every other man. We must learn to know what 
is possible for man. By seriously attempting to think 
what another has thought we broaden the potential- 
ities of our own truth, even where we bar ourselves to 
the other's thinking. We learn to know it only if we 
venture to put ourselves entirely into it. The remote 
and alien, the extreme and the exception, even the 
anomalous all enjoin us to neglect no original thought, 
to miss no truth by blindness or indifference. Accord- 
ingly, the student of philosophy turns not only to the 
philosopher of his choice whom he studies without 
stint as his own; he turns also to the history of philo- 
sophy, in order to learn what was and what men have 

The study of history involves the danger of disper- 
sion and noncommitment. The imperative to think in 
unanimity with ourselves is direct against the temptation 
to indulge too long in curiosity and the pleasure of 
contemplating diversity. What we learn from history 
should become a stimulus; it should either make us 
attentive or call us to question. The elements of history 
should not lie indifferently side by side in our minds. 
We ourselves must create friction between these 
elements which historical fact itself has not brought 
into exchange and contact. We must create a relation 
even among the most disparate elements. 

All elements come together by being received into 



the thinker's one self. To be unanimous with our- 
selves means to preserve our own thinking by relating 
the separate, the contradictory, the diffuse, to a unity. 
Universal history, intelligently assimilated, becomes a 
unity, though an open one. The idea of the unity of the 
history of philosophy, continuously shattered by 
reaHty, is the driving principle in our learning. 


These works serve very diverse aims. 

They may consist in collected texts, in simple des- 
criptions of texts, biographies of the philosophers, 
sociological accounts, investigations of influences and 
stages of development. They may consist in descrip- 
tions and discussions of the contents of works, in 
analyses of their motivations, systems, methods. 

There are works characterizing the mind or 
principles of particular philosophers and whole epochs. 
Finally, there are general works, culminating in the 
histories of world philosophy. 

The writer on the history of philosophy must be 
equipped with philological insight, and he must also be 
a philosopher capable of participating in the philoso- 
phical thought of the past. The truest historical con- 
ception will inevitably amount to original philosophy. 

Hegel was the first philosopher who took a con- 
sciously philosophical view of the whole history of 
philosophy. For this reason his history of philosophy 
remains a magnificent achievement. But because of 
its Hegelian principles it penetrates but also kills. All the 
philosophers of the past live for a moment as in a won- 
derfully illuminating spotlight; but then it suddenly 



becomes apparent that Hegelian thinking cuts the 
heart out of them and buries their remains in the 
vast graveyard of history. Hegel was finished with the 
past because he believed he had encompassed the 
whole of it. His rational penetration is not candid 
exploration but destructive surgery, it is not enduring 
questioning but conquest and subjection, it is not a 
living-with but domination. 

It is always advisable to read several accounts of 
history side by side in order to safeguard ourselves 
against accepting any one view as self-evident. If we 
read only one account its classifications force them- 
selves upon us involuntarily. 

It is also advisable to read no account without at 
least sampling the related original texts. 

Finally, histories of philosophy may be used as 
reference works for literary orientation, and various 
philosophical lexicons are also useful. 


For individual study it is worthwhile to acquire a 
limited library containing the really important texts. 
Any list upon which such a library might be based will 
be subject to personal modification. But there is a core 
which is almost universal, though even here the 
accent will vary ; there is no universal accent that will 
be accepted by all. 

It is a good idea to begin by specializing in one 
philosopher. It is of course desirable that this should be 
one of the great philosophers, but it is possible to find 
the way to philosophy through a philosopher of second 
or third rank. Any philosopher, thoroughly studied, 



leads step by step to philosophy and the history of 
philosophy as a whole. 

For antiquity any bibHography is limited by the 
small number of extant texts, particularly of complete 
works, that have been preserved. For more recent 
centuries the texts are so abundant that, quite on the 
contrary, the difficulty lies in selecting one. 


Ancient Philosophy 
Fragments of the Pre-Socratics (600-400). 
Plato (428-348). 
Aristotle (384-322). 
Fragments of the Old Stoics (300-200). Seneca (d. a.d. 65), 

Epictetus {ca. a.d. 50-138), Marcus Aurelius (ruled a.d. 

Fragments of Epicurus (342-271). Lucretius (96-55). 

The Sceptics. Sextus Empiricus [ca. a.d. 150), Cicero 

(106-43 B.C.), Plutarch {ca. a.d. 45-125). 
Plotinus (a.d. 203-270). 
Boethius (a.d. 480-525). 

Christian Philosophy 
Church Fathers: St. Augustine (354-430). 
Middle Ages: John Scotus Erigena (9th century). Anselm 

( 1 033-1 1 09) . Abelard ( 1 079-1 1 42) . St. Thomas ( 1 225-74) . 

John Duns Scotus (d. 1308). Master Eckhart (i 260-1 327). 

William of Ockham {ca. 1300-50). Nicholas of Cusa 

(1401-64). Luther (1483-1546). Calvin (1509-64). 

Modern Philosophy 
1 6th century: Machiavelli, Thomas More, Paracelsus, 

Montaigne, Bruno, Jacob Bohme, Bacon. 
17th century: Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Pascal. 
1 8th century: 



English rationalists: Locke, Hume. 
French and English moralists 

17th century: La Rochefoucauld, La Bruyere. 
1 8th century: Shaftesbury, Vauvenargues, Chamfort. 
German philosophy: Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Schelling. \ 

19th century: 

German academic philosophy, e.g., The Younger Fichte, J 

Lotze. I 

The original philosophers: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche. I 

Modern sciences as an area of philosophy : j 

PoirricAL and economic philosophy: Tocqueville, Lorenz j 

von Stein, Marx. 
Philosophy of history : Ranke, Burckhardt, Max Weber. ] 
Natural philosophy: K. E. von Baer, Darwin. I 

Psychological philosophy: Fechner, Freud. 

In roughly characterizing these men I shall venture 
a number of inadequate remarks. In no case do I 
expect to classify or dispose of any philosopher, 
although my statements will inevitably sound as if I 
did. I should like my remarks to be taken as questions. 
They are intended merely to call attention to certain 
things and perhaps to help some readers to find out 
where their own inclinations lead. 


The Pre-Socratics have the unique magic that lies 
in the "beginnings." They are uncommonly difficult 
to understand correctly. We must attempt to dis- 
regard all the "philosophical education" which veils 
their immediacy in current habits of thought and 
speech. In the Pre-Socratics thought is working its way 
out of the original intuitive experience of being. In 
reading them we participate in man's first intellectual 
illuminations. The work of each of these great thinkers 



hows a unity and specificity of style that have never 
)een equalled since. As only fragments have come down 
o us, the reader is tempted to read things into the 
jext. The whole is still full of riddles. 
I Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus are the only ancient 
)hilosophers whose works have been preserved in any 
neasure of completeness. These three occupy first 
)lace for the study of ancient philosophy. 

Plato teaches the eternal, fundamental experiences 
)f philosophy. The movement of his thought em- 
braces the whole wealth of the Greek philosophy that 
lad gone before. Amid the breakdown of his own age 
le stood at the frontier of every time. He perceived the 
vorld of the thinkable with the most independent 
)penness. He achieved the clearest communication of 
lis thoughts, but he communicated them in such a way 
;hat the mystery of philosophical endeavour becomes 
Ipeech while remaining always present as mystery. In 
iiim all materiality is smelted down. The essential is 
the operation of transcending. Plato achieved the 
|ummit beyond which, it would seem, man cannot pass 
In his thinking, Down to the present day the strongest 
philosophical impulses have emanated from him. He 
has always been misunderstood, for he has no doctrine 
that can be learned and his teachings must always be 
acquired anew. In the study of Plato, as of Kant, we 
obtain no fixed knowledge but learn to philosophize 
for ourselves. All subsequent thinkers reveal themselves 
in their manner of understanding Plato. 

From Aristotle we learn the categories which, 
since his time, have dominated Western thinking. He 
laid down the language (terminology) of philosophy, 



whether Aristotelian or anti- Aristotelian or conceived' 
as transcending this entire plane of thinking. j 

Plotinus used the whole tradition of ancient philo- ' 
sophy as a means of expressing a wonderful metaphysic, i 
original in mood, which has come down through the 
ages as the true metaphysic. Mystical serenity is 
communicated in the music of a speculation which i 
remains unequalled and which re-echoes wherever men ; 
have thought metaphysically. 1 

The Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics, the Platonists j 
and Aristotelians (the later Academics and Peripa-j 
tetics) created the universal philosophy of the educated I 
classes of late antiquity for whom Cicero and Plutarch 
also wrote. Despite all the conflicting positions and 
constant polemics among them, they represent a 
world in common. Participation in all its aspects;] 
amounted to eclecticism, but it also characterizes the 
specifically limited fundamental attitude of these 
ancient centuries, the personal dignity, the continuity 
of a world in which the essentials were merely repeated, 
a world which was strangely finished and barren, yet 
in which men understood one another. This is the 
home of the cosmopolitan philosophy that still has 
currency today. Its last captivating figure is Boethius, 
whose Consolatio philosophiae, by virtue of its mood, 
beauty, and authenticity, is among the basic works of 

Since then, philosophical communities of education, 
concepts, style, and attitude have been realized by the 
clergy of the Middle Ages, the Humanists since the 
Renaissance, and in a weaker sense by the speculative, 
idealistic German philosophers between 1770 and 



850. The Study of these societies is of great historical 
md sociological interest. It is important to understand 
he distance between the great philosophical creations 
ind this universalizing form of thought. Humanism is 
)articularly important because its pecuUar source is 
lot a great philosophy but an attitude toward tradi- 
ion and learning, an attitude of openness and human 
reedom, without which our Western life would be 
mpossible. Humanism (which merely became explicit 
n the Renaissance, in Pico, Erasmus, Marsilio Ficino, 
vho can still be read profitably today) goes through 
ivery age, since the conscious paideia of the Greeks and 
ince the cultivation of Greek influence in Rome in the 
ige of the Scipios. In our day it has grown weak. Its 
iisappearance would be a catastrophe of incalculable 
Intellectual and human consequence. 


Far the greatest of the Church Fathers is St. Augus- 
ine. The study of his works gives us the whole of 
Christian philosophy. Here we find innumerable, 
inforgettable formulations expressing that passionate, 
neditative inwardness that is lacking in ancient 
fphilosophy. His immeasurably rich work is full of 
repetitions, it is sometimes rhetorically diffuse, as a 
whole perhaps it is without beauty, yet in detail it 
^ives terse and forceful expression to profound truths. 
iWe become familiar with his adversaries through the 
buotations and references in his polemics. Augustine's 
works remain to this day a spring from which all 
thinkers draw who seek to know the soul in its depths. 



Scotus Erigena conceived an edifice of being, com 
prising God, nature and man, in Neoplatonic cate 
gories with dialectic freedom of development. Hi 
contributed a new mood of self-awareness and opennesil 
to the world. A man of learning, he knew Greek anc 
translated Dionysius Areopagita. Working with tradi- 
tional concepts, he erected a magnificent system! 
original in its attitude. He sought to define God a* 
nature, and founded a new speculative mysticism! 
which has enjoyed influence down to the present. His 
work is a product of ancient tradition, blended with 
deep Christian and philosophical faith. 

The methodical thinking of the Middle Ages first 
becomes original with Anselm. Immediate metaphysical 
revelations are expressed in the dry language of logic 
and jurisprudence. While his logical argumentations 
and particularly his dogmatic propositions are alien to 
us, his ideas are still alive, in so far as we disregard 
their historical cloak of Christian dogmatism and take 
them in their universal human import as we do those 
of Parmenides. 

Abelard teaches the energy of reflection, the roads of 
the logically possible, the method of dialectic contradic- 
tion as a means of exploring problems. By this extreme 
questioning through the confrontation of opposites he 
became the founder of the Scholastic method which 
achieved its summit in Thomas Aquinas; at the 
same time he sowed the seeds of disintegration in the 
naive Christianity which had sustained men before 

Thomas Aquinas erected the grandiose system which 
has been overwhelmingly accepted in the CathoHc 

1 80 


world down to our day, a system in which the king- 
dom of nature and the kingdom of grace, that which is 
accessible to reason and that which is accessible only 
to faith, the secular and the ecclesiastical, the confuted 
heretical positions and the element of truth in them, 
are encompassed in a unity which has been compared 
not without reason to the great cathedrals of the 
Middle Ages. He created a unity out of the products of 
medieval thought. In the light of his work the medieval 
'philosophers were all precursors, down to Albert the 
!Great with his organization of the material and his 
method of adapting Aristotle. Perhaps Thomas excels 
him only in his clarity and in the moderation and 
succinctness of his thinking. The mood and vision of 
this complete philosophical reality of the Middle Ages 
can be found in Dante's Divine Comedy. 

Duns Scotus and William of Ockham broke through 
the structure of medieval thought at almost the very 
moment when it seemed to be complete. Still in a form 
that passed as orthodox. Duns Scotus spurs to thought 
by the profound difficulties which he found in the 
question of will and in the unique individuality of the 
Here and Now. Ockham exploded the Scholastic 
epistemology and laid the foundations of the modern 
theory of knowledge, with its endless horizons and its 
sense of human limitations. In the political sphere, as 
publicist for Louis the Bavarian, he shattered the 
:laims of the church. Like all the medieval thinkers 
whose works have come down to us, he too was a 
believer in Christ (the unbelievers, sceptics, nihilists 
ire known to us mostly through refutations and 
:juotations) . To this day there is no modern edition of 



Ockham's works. They have not been translated intc 
German. This is perhaps the only great gap still to be I 
filled in the history of philosophy. 

Nicholas of Cusa is the first philosopher of the Middleijl 
Ages whom we encounter in an atmosphere which seemsf 
to us our own. True, he remains entirely medieval ii 
his faith, for in him the unity of ecclesiastical faith i^ 
still unbroken, the trust that the unity of the Catholic 
Church will one day embrace all nations. But in his( 
philosophy he no longer projects one system; like 
Thomas, he does not make use of the Scholastic method,! 
which logically apprehends all tradition in its con- 
tradictions, but turns directly to the matter in hand,! 
whether it be metaphysical (transcendant) or empirical 
(immanent). Thus he employs special methods based 
on his own intuitions, and finds a wonderful divinef! 
being, which in these speculations is revealed in 
a new way. In this being of the godhead he sees the 
realities of the world, and in such a way that specula- 
tion opens the path to empirical and mathematical 
insights which become the instruments of the intuition 
of God. His is an all-embracing thought, lovingly 
close to reality and yet transcending it. The world is 
not circumvented but itself shines in the light of 
transcendence. This is a metaphysic which is still 
indispensable. The time spent in exploring it may be 
counted among the happy hours of the philosopher. 

With Luther it is different. To study him is indis- 
pensable. He is a theological thinker who despises 
philosophy, speaks of the whore reason, yet he himself 
thought out the basic existential ideas without which 
present philosophy would scarcely be possible. The 



combination of passionate seriousness of faith and of 
)pportunistic shrewdness, of depth and hatred, of 
oriUiant penetration and coarse bluster makes it a duty, 
ilmost a torment to study him. This man gives forth a 
profoundly antiphilosophical atmosphere. 

Calvin's greatness lies in disciplined, methodic form, 
ron logic, unswerving and dauntless adherence to 
Drinciples. But his loveless intolerance makes him, in his 
;heoretical as in his practical activities, the repellent 
antithesis of philosophy. It is good to have looked him 
in the face in order to recognize this spirit wherever, in 
Iv^eiled or fragmentary form, it is manifested in the 
Vorld. He is the supreme incarnation of that Christian 
[ntolerance against which there is no weapon but 


In contrast to ancient and medieval philosophy, 
modern philosophy forms no comprehensive whole but 
is an agglomeration of the most disparate, unrelated 
efforts, full of fine systematic structures, none of which 
is actually dominant. It is extraordinarily rich, full of 
the concrete and of bold, free abstractions, in constant 
relation to new science. Its works are differentiated 
along national lines, written in Italian, German, 
French, and English, in addition to those carry-overs 
from the Middle Ages that were still composed in Latin. 

We shall attempt a characterization of modern 
philosophy in chronological order. 

The sixteenth century is rich in heterogeneous, 
extraordinary personal creations, which move us by 
their immediacy. They remain rich sources. 



In the political sphere Machiavelli and MorJ 
initiated the modern approach to history as a chain o 
causes and effects. Despite their outmoded trapping! 
their works are still graphic and interesting. 

Paracelsus and Bohme show us that world, equall)! 
rich in profundity and superstition, with clarity and ir 
uncritical confusion, which today is known a; 
theosophy, anthroposophy, cosmosophy. Rich in in- 
tuitions and images, they lead into a maze. We musi 
discern the rational structure that lies hidden in the 
cabbalistic quaintness and, particularly with Bohme, 
in dialectical subtleties. 

Montaigne is the type of man grown independent, 
without desire for realization in the world. His 
morality and opinions, integrity and shrewdness, 
sceptical openness and sense of the practical are 
expressed in modern form. The reading of Montaigne 
is immediately captivating, philosophically it is a 
perfect expression for this form of life, but at the same 
time it is in a sense paralysing. His earthbound self- 
sufficiency is a delusion. 

Bruno in contrast is the infinitely struggling 
philosopher, consuming himself in inadequacy. He 
has knowledge of the limits and believes in the 
supreme. His dialogue on the eroici furori is a basic 
work of the philosophy of enthusiasm. 

Bacon is known as the founder of modern empiricism 
and of the modern sciences. Both erroneously. For he 
did not understand true modern science, the mathe- 
matical science of nature, then at its beginnings, and 
this science would never have come into being by his 
methods. But in an enthusiasm for the new, character- 



;tic of the Renaissance, Bacon ardently espoused the 
lieas that knowledge is power, that vast technical 
lossibilities lay ahead, that illusions must be replaced 
y a rational approach to reality. 

The seventeenth century brings the philosophy of 
ational construction, of great systems erected by neat 
)gical development. The air seems to have cleared, 
ut the rich images and intuitions have silently 
anished. Modern science is at hand, assuming the 
haracter of a pattern for all thought. 

Descartes is the founder of this new philosophical 
'^orld, and beside him Hobbes. Descartes' perverted 
bnception of science and philosophy made his 
ifluence disastrous. Because of this, and because of 
le basic fallacy that is obvious in his work, we should 
udy him today in order to know the road that is to 
e avoided. Though Hobbes developed a system of 
eing, his greatness lies in his political theory, reveal- 
ig with impressive logic elements of reality that with 
im enter the human consciousness for all time. 

Spinoza is the metaphysician who with traditional 
pd Cartesian concepts expresses a philosophical 
dth; he is original in the metaphysical mood which 
e alone possessed among the philosophers of his time, 
►f the philosophers of his century he alone has 
>llowers today. 

Pascal represents a reaction to the absolutization of 
ience and the system. His thinking dominates both, it 
as the same precision but greater integrity and depth. 

Leibnitz, as universal as Aristotle, richer than all the 
^losophers of this century in ideas and inventions, 
ways creative, always intelligent, is in his metaphysics 





without the greatness that comes of a basic attitude 
which is profoundly human. 

The eighteenth century shows for the first time a 
broader stream of philosophical literature addressed tojj 
a general public. It is the century of the Enlightenment. 

The English Enlightenment has its first represent-! 
ative figure in Locke. He provided the English! 
society growing out of the revolution of 1688 with its 
intellectual and political groundwork. Hume is the' 
brilliant analyst; an intelHgent writer, even when 
tedious, he does not strike us as commonplace. His 
scepticism is the bold, unflinching integrity of a man 
who dares to stand at the limits and face the un- 
fathomable, without speaking of it. 

Both in France and in England there was a literature 
of aphorisms and essays by observers of men and 
society, whom we call " moralists." They strove to bring; 
a philosophical attitude into psychology. In the 
seventeenth century the work of La Rochefoucauld and 
La Bruyere, in the eighteenth century that of' 
Vauvenargues and Chamfort, grew out of the world 
of the court. Shaftesbury was the philosopher of an 
aesthetic discipline of life. 

Along with a systematic energy and an openness to 
what is deepest and what is most remote, the great 
German philosophers have an intellectual vigour and 
wealth of ideas that make them an indispensable 
foundation for all serious philosophical thought: 
Kant, Fichte, Hegel, SchelHng. 

Kant: for us the decisive step toward awareness of I 
being; precision in the intellectual operation of trans- -I 
cending; an ethos growing out of our inadequacy; 



'^istness of conception and humanitarian feeling; like 
iessing, a personification of radiant reason. A noble 

Fichte : speculation carried to the point of fanatic- 
jin, frantic attempts at the impossible, brilHant 
onstruction, moral eloquence. He initiated a 
destructive trend of extremiism and intolerance. 

Hegel : mastery and many-sided elaboration of the 
|i alectic categories ; explored the full range of intel- 

ptual attitudes, effected the most comprehensive 
[mmation of Western history. 

Schelling: indefatigable ponderings on the ulti- 
mate, broached disquieting mysteries ; failed as creator 

'a system; opened up new paths. 

The nineteenth century represents transition, dis- 

lution and consciousness of dissolution, expansion of 
le material world, scientific scope. The philosophical 
rtpetus dwindled in philosophers turned professor, 
roducing pale, arbitrary, unconvincing systems and 
udies on the history of philosophy which for the 

St time made the whole historical material accessible, 
[he authentic philosophical drive survived in excep- 
ons, scarcely recognized by their contemporaries, and 
1 science. 

German academic philosophy is instructive, full of 
onscientiousness and zeal; however, it no longer 
paws from the essence of man but derives from the 
[ourgeois world with its cultural ideals, its well- 
leaning seriousness, and its limitations. Even its more 
Inportant figures, such as the younger Fichte and 
lOtze, will be studied for their edification, not for 
leir substance. 



The original philosophers of this era are Kierkegaarj 
and Nietzsche. Both without system, both exception 
and victims. They are aware of the catastrophe, uttq 
astounding truths, and show no way out. In them th( 
age is documented by the most merciless self-criticisH), 
in human history. [j 

Kierkegaard: forms of spiritual action, profounck 
intellectual commitment. In him everything, par-jj 
ticularly congealed Hegelian thought, is made fluid 
again. Violently Christian. ji 

Nietzsche: endless reflection, auscultation and! 
questioning of all things; digs deeply but discovers nci) 
foundations, except for new paradoxes. Violently j 

The modern sciences become vehicles of a philos- 
ophical attitude, not in their general concerns but in 
numerous though separate personalities. Here are a 
few names only as examples. 

Political and social philosophy: Tocqueville ap- 
prehended the course of the modern world toward 
democracy, through sociological knowledge of the 
ancien regime, of the French Revolution, and of the 
United States of America. His preoccupation with 
freedom, his sense of human dignity and of authority, 
led him to inquire realistically into the inevitable and 
the possible. He was a man and scientist of the first 
order. On the basis of the political actions and ideas of 
the French since 1789, Lorenz von Stein interpreted 
the events of the first half of the nineteenth century in 
terms of the polarity between state and society. He 
considered the question of Europe's destiny. Marx 
utilized these insights, developed them in economic 



Instructions, infused them with hatred against 
dsting forms, and endowed them with chiHastic aims 
jr the future. In the underprivileged and hopeless 
t-oletarians of all nations a light of hope shall be born 
liich will unite them and make them into a power 
ipable of overturning the economic, sociological, and 
blitical status quo to create a world of justice and 

{Philosophy of history: In an atmosphere of Goethe 
[id Hegel, Ranke developed a critical approach to 
[story in the service of a universalistic view which is 
self a philosophy even though it appears to reject 
riilosophy. Jacob Burckhardt looked upon himself as 
kind of priest of historical education, revealed the 
'eatness and the blessings of historical memory, 
oked on salvation and doom with a fundamental 
2ssimistic sense of standing at the end of a world 
hose glory exists only in such memory. Max Weber 
laxed all prejudices, inquired by every means 
to the reality of history, clarified contexts in 
Lch a way that most earlier historiography seems 
lie, inadequate, and vague. Theoretically and 
'actically he demonstrated the conflict between 
dues and knowledge; he opened up new paths by 
imbly testing our knowledge of reality and rejecting 
1 approximations and rash generalizations. 
Natural philosophy: K. E. von Baer, by way of 
:ploratory research, created a magnificent vision of 
le organic world in its fundamental characters, 
arwin, his diametrical opposite, reduced this vision 
I a system of causalities, which implies the destruction 
' any sense of authentic life. 



Psychological philosophy: Fechner established al 
methodical, experimental study of the relation between! 
the psychological and physical factors in sense 
perception (psychophysics) ; this he conceived as part! 
of a logical but actually fantastic theory of the anima-i 
tion of all life and all things. In his debunking 
psychology Freud naturalized and trivialized thej 
sublime insights of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. A 
barren, hateful Weltanschauung m.asked by human- 
itarian forms was indeed appropriate to an age whose 
hypocrisy it pitilessly dissected, but Freud failed to see 
that this world was not the whole world. 


Chinese Philosophy 
Lao Tse (6th century b.c.) ; Confucius (6th century B.C.) ; Mc 
Tse (second half of the 5th century b.c.) ; Chuang Tse 
(4th century b.c). 

Indian Philosophy 

Upanishads (roughly 1000-400 B.C.); Pali Canon of Bud- 
dhism; texts from the Mahabharata (ist century B.C.). 

Bhagavad-Gita, etc.; Kautilya's Arthashastra; Shankara 
(9th century A.D.). 

As thus far accessible to us in translations and 
interpretations, Chinese and Indian philosophy seem 
far inferior to Western philosophy in scope, in develop- 
ment, and in inspiring formulations. For us Western 
philosophy remains the main object of study. It is 
indeed an exaggeration to say that all we understand 
of Asiatic philosophy is what we would understand 



^thout it through our own philosophy. But it is true 
lat most interpretations lean so heavily on theWestern 
itegories that even for those who do not understand 
le oriental languages the error is perceptible. 
I Hence, though the parallel between the three 
^velopments — China, India, the West — is historically 
|und, it gives us a distorted picture in that it seems to 
jace equal emphasis on all three. For us this is not the 
ise. Despite those indispensable insights which we 
e to Asiatic thinking, the main ideas which animate 
are those of Western philosophy. Only in Western 
lilosophy do we find the clear distinctions, the 
recise formulations of problems, the scientific orienta- 
3n, the thorough discussions, the sustained thought, 
hich to us are indispensable. 

Philosophy in Religion, Literature, and Art 
eligion: The Bible; the texts collected in source books of 
religious history. 

terature: Homer; Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides; Dante; 
Shakespeare, Goethe, Dostoyevsky. 
rt: Leonardo, Michelangelo, Rembrandt. 

In order to possess ourselves of the contents of 
tiilosophy down through its history we must read and 
:read the philosophers in the restricted sense; we 
ust obtain a clear view of the development of the 
iences ; and we must allow ourselves to be moved by 
le great works of religion, literature, and art. W^e 
lould not keep turning to new and varied works but 
nmerse ourselves in those which are truly great. 



The Great Works 

Some few works of philosophy are in their own wa: 
as infinite as great works of art. They contain mor^, 
thought than the author himself knew. True, everiP 
profound idea implies consequences of which thP 
thinker is not immediately aware. But in the greaj'" 
philosophies it is the totahty itself which conceals thi!'' 
infinite. An astonishing harmony pervades the verli' 
contradictions, so that even they become an expressioi'i^' 
of truth. The complexity of thought, while achievinjjjf 
clarity in the foreground, reveals unfathomabhj" 
depths. The more patiently we study these works th(!«f 
more wonderful they seem to us. Such are the works oJ 
Plato, of Kant, Hegel's Phenomenology of Mind — buiip' 
each for reasons of its own. In Plato we find balanced'!' 
form, supreme lucidity, the keenest knowledge oi ' 
method, artistic expression of philosophical truth,'!' 
without sacrifice of clarity and force. In Kant we have Ii 
the greatest integrity, scupulous weighing of every c 
word, the most subHnie clarity. Hegel is less scrupulous, 
occasionally carried away by his own facility; but 
these defects are counterbalanced by wealth of ideas, 
creative genius, which reveals deep meanings though it 
does not integrate them in his own philosophy, which i| 
is full of violence and deception, shows a tendency 
toward dogmatic scholasticism and aestheticism. 

Philosophies vary exceedingly in rank and in kind. 
It is a question of philosophical destiny whether or not 
in my youth I entrust myself to the study of a great 
philosopher and to which of the great philosophers I 
entrust myself. 



We may say that everything can be found in one of 
le great works. Through a great work we make our 
7ay upward through the whole realm of philosophy. 
y thorough study of one sublime lifework I find a 
entre, from which and toward which everything else 
lay be illumined. Everything else is drawn into the 
:udy of this work. In connection with it we gain an 
rientation in the whole history of philosophy, learn 
t least to find our way about it, gain impressions 
brough samplings of original tests, gain an intimation 
f its other works. The thorough study of one philo- 
opher prevents us from overestimating our knowledge 
if the doctrines we have studied less thoroughly. 

A young man might welcome advice as to which 
philosopher he should select. But everyone must make 
his choice for himself All we can do is to bring certain 
hings to his notice. This choice is a fundamental 
lecision. Perhaps it will follow from groping attempts, 
t may take years to form. Nevertheless some advice 
;an be given. An old counsel is to study Plato and Kant 
ince they cover all the essentials. In this I concur. 

It is not a choice to let yourself be carried away by 
ascinating reading, as for example by Schopenhauer 
)r Nietzsche. Choice means study with all the means 
jit your disposal. It means a growing into the whole 
istory of philosophy from the standpoint of one of its 
reat manifestations. A work which does not lead along 
his road is an unfortunate choice, although ulti- 

ately every philosophical work, when really studied, 

rust be in some way rewarding. 
To choose a great philosopher for the study of his 
^orks does not mean to limit yourself to him. On the 



contrary, when you study one great philosopher, yoi 
should also consider another who is very differen 
from him. If you restrict yourself to one, even the mos 
unprejudiced philosopher, the result will be bias 
Philosophy is incompatible with any deification of mar 
in which one man is regarded as an exclusive master 
And the very essence of philosophical thought 
openness to the truth as a whole, not to barren, abstrac 
truth but to truth in the diversity of its supremi 





.HOSE READERS WHO wish to look morc closely 
ito my philosophical writings may consult the follow- 
ig brief bibliography. 

My two principal philosophical works are 

1. Philosophie. 2 ed., Heidelberg-Berlin, 

Springer- Verlag, 1948. 

2. Von der Wahrheit. Mmiich, R. Piper, 1948. 

Short works treating the subject matter of these 
adio talks in greater detail: 

1. Der philosophische Glaube. Munich, R. Piper, 

1948; Zurich, Artemis- Verlag, 1948. 
English ed.: The Perennial Scope of Philos- 
ophy, trans, by Ralph Manheim. New 
York, Philosophical Library, 1949; 
London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 


2. Vernunft und Existenz. 2 ed., Bremen, 

Storm- Verlag, 1947. 

3. Philosophie und Wissenschaft. Zurich, Artemis- 

Verlag, 1948. 

On contemporary philosophy: 

I. Die geistige Situation der ^eit. 7 ed., 
Berlin, W. de Gruyter, 1949. English ed.: 



Man in the Modern Age. London, Rout- 
ledge and Kegan Paul, 1934. ] 

2. Vom Ursprung und ^iel der Geschichte. Ziirich, 

Artemis- Verlag, 1949; Munich, R. 
Piper, 1949. English ed, : The Origin and 
Goal of History, London, Routledge and 
Kegan Paul (in preparation). 1 

3. Vom Europaischen Geist. Munich, R. Piper,) 

1947. English ed. : The European Spirity\ 
London, S.C.M. Press, 1948. 

Works devoted to individual philosophers: " 

1. Descartes und die Philosophie. 2 ed., Berlin, 

W. de Gruyter, 1947. 

2. Metzsche. 3 ed., Berlin, W. de Gruyter, 

Metzsche und das Christentum. Hameln,i 

Biicherstube Seifert, 1946. 

3. Max Weber. 2 ed., Bremen, Storm- 

Verlag, 1947. 

On philosophy as manifested in the concrete 
sciences : 

1. Allgemeine Psychopathologie. 5 ed., Heidel- 

berg-Berlin, Springer- Verlag, 1947. 

2. Strindberg und van Gogh. 3 ed., Bremen, 

Storm- Verlag, 1949. 

Articles in English : 

" Rededication of German Scholarship," trans, 
by M. Zuckerlandl, American Scholar, 15 (April, 
1946), No. 2, 180-188. 


'Is Europe's Culture Finished?" trans, by E. 
Basch, Commentary, 4 (December, 1947), 518- 

'Axial Age of Human History," trans, by R. 
Manheim, Commentary, 6 (November, 1948), 


Goethe and Our Future," World Review 
(London), June-July, 1949. 

Zu Nietzsches Bedeutung in der Geschichte 
der Philosophie," trans, by Ralph Manheim, 
to be published in Partisan Review under the 
tentative title "Nietzsche's Significance for 
the History of Philosophy." 


This book originated in twelve radio lectures 
commissioned by the Basel radio station. 



\belard, Peter (1079-1 142), 175, 180 
\bsolute, the, 37-8; the morally 
I admissible and, 59; man and, 80 
\bstractions, power of, 83 
Veschylus (525-456 B.C.), 191 
\esthetic attitude, 113 
\ims and conduct, 54-5 
Ubert the Great, of Cologne ( 1 206- 

80), 181 
iVmbivalence of independence, 
[ 1 12-15 

\nselm (i 033-1 109), 134, 175, 180 
\ntiquity, definitions of philosophy 

in, 13 
\ntithesis of good and evil, 59-62 
\pprehension, direct, of God, 47 
\rchimedes (287-212 b.c), 100 
Aristippus (435-356 B.C.), 116 
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), 140, 175, 
177-8, 181; on source of philos- 
ophy, 17-18, 24 
Asceticism of the philosopher, no 
Astronomical conceptions, 76 
Augustine, St. (a.d. 354-430), 136, 
137, 175, 179; "Love and do what 
thou wilt," 62 
Authentic being, revelation of, 77 
lAuthentic reality, 47 
|A.uthority: and unconditional im- 
I perative, 52; subservience to, 92 
lAwareness and reality of the un- 
conditional, 57 
Axial age, the (800-200 B.C.), 
ggetseq., 135 

Bacon, Sir Francis (i 561 -1626), 175, 

Baer, Karl Ernst von (i 792-1 876), 

Beginning, the, and its significance, 

Being: awareness of, 9; definition of, 

78; revealed in man, 105 
Being, true : the question of, 28 ; efforts 

to define, 28 et seq. 

Being- there {=Dasein), oriented 

toward environment, 32 
Bhagarad-Gita, 116, 190 
Bible, the, 39 et seq., 137 
Boethius (a.d. 480-525), 54, 175, 178 
Bohme, Jacob ( 1 575-1 624), 175, 184 
Brahman philosophy, attempt to 

apprehend God, 48 
Bruno, Giordano (i 548-1600), 54, 

134> 136, i75> 184 
Buddha, Gautama, loo 
Buddhism, Indian, and China, 135, 

Burkhardt, Jacob, 176, 189 

Calvin, John (1509-64), 175, 183 
Catastrophes of present age, 103 
Categories, basic, 100 
Causal relations in history, 97 
Certainty: nature of, in philosophy, 

8; through doubt, 19; of God, 41 
Chamfort, Nicolas (1741-94), 176, 186 
Chance, 20 
Character, innate, 56 
Children, spontaneous philosophy of, 

China: spiritual foundations laid in, 

98; development of independent 

philosophy in, 135 
Chinese philosophy, 99-100; texts on, 


Christian intolerance, Calvin the 
supreme incarnation of, 183 

Christian-medieval philosophy, 136 

Christian philosophy, texts, 179-83 

Christian structure of history, 99 

Chuang Tse, 99, 190 

Church, authoritarian: and inde- 
pendent philosophy, 14; recognized 
by philosophy, 1 32 

Churches, the, 92 

Cicero (106-43 B.C.), 175, 178 

Civilizations, ancient, 98 

Classification of philosophers, 141-a 

Commonplace, triumph of the, no 



Communication: of truth, 13, 25-7; 

mysticism not commum"cabIe, 35; 

universal human readiness for, 91 ; 

and unity of mankind, 106-8; in 

the philosophical Hfe, 122 et seq. 
Communications before Christian 

era, 135 
Community, security in, 2 1 
Comprehensive, the, 13, 28-38; 

reached through certainty of 

existence, 43; and philosophical 

faith, 94; awareness of, 125 
Comprehensive consciousness of 

God, 46-7 
Conditional imperatives, 55 
Conduct, aims and, 54—5 
Confucius (551-478 B.C.), 99, 133, 

Consciousness, 33, 36 
Contemplation: pure, of mystics, 

80-1; religious and philosophic, 

122 et seq. 
Cosmological proof of existence of 

God, 42-3 
Cosmologies, "scientific", 76 
Creation, free, source of philosopliical 

thought, 9 
Creative originality, 1 1 
Cultures, growth of, 97 

Dante, Alighieri (1265-1321), 181, 

Darwin, Charles (1809-82), 176, 

Dasein (= being- there), oriented to- 
ward environment, 32 

Death, 20; and witness, 53 

Death urge, 53 

Decision, existential, demanded by 
unconditional imperative, 56 

Deification of man, 45 

Descartes, Ren6 (1596-1650), 18-19, 
24, i34> 153. 175, 185 

Despair, 20 

Despotic Empires, rise of, 102 

Determinacy, implications of, 30 

Deutero-Isaiah, 100 

Development and progress in philo- 
sophy, 1 40- 1 

Devil, serving the, 83 

Devotion, unlimited, to God, the 
authentic mode of existence, 83-4 

Dialectical method of Marx and 

Hegel, 154-6 
Dichotomy: subject-object, 29 et seq.) 

meaning of, 30-1; two-fold, 30-1; 

implications of, 31 ; three modes of, 

.31-3; result of awareness of, 37-8 
Differentiation, levels of, between 

good and evil, 59-62 
Dignity of man, 91 
Discussion, demanded by statement. 

Disintegration, visible signs of present, 

25 . 
Doctrine of categories as structures, 78 
Dogmatism of independence, 1 1 1 
Doubt, a soiu-ce of philosophy, 

18-19, 24 
Duns Scotus, John (1265-1308), 175, 


Eckhart, Master (1260-1327), 175 

Egypt, civilization of, 98 

Elijah the prophet, 100 

Enlightenment: faith and, 85-95; 
lack of faith and the, 87; demands 
of, 87; definition of, 88; ambiva- 
lence of, 88-90; attacks on, 89-90; 
nature of, 89 

Enthusiasm, 184 

Environment, Dasein (being-there) 
oriented toward, 32 

Epictetus (a.d. 50-138), 175; on 
source of philosophy, 1 9 

Epicureans, 178 ,' 

Epicurus (342-271 B.C.), 175 

Erasmus, Desiderius (1466- 1536), 179 

Eternal, to partake in the, 56 

Ethical level of diflferentiation be- 
tween good and evil, 59-60, 61-2 

Euripides (484-407 B.C.), 191 

European philosophy, modern, 136 

Evil: definition of, 59; true, 59-60; 
antithesis of good and, 59-62 

Existence: wonder of, 10; oriented 
toward God, 32-3; and freedom, 
45; empirical, and the uncondi- 
tional imperative, 52 

Existentialism, 2on. 

Failure, reality of, 22-3 
Faith, 22; rooted in the Compre- 
hensive, 36; nature of, 51; and 



aith — contd. 

reality of the unconditional, 57; 
principles of, 82-3, 85; and 
enlightenment, 85-95 (««'^ ^^^> 
Enlightenment); lack of, 87; 
essential, 93-5 

aith in God: source of, 44-5; 
resists mediation, 47 

aith, philosophical, principles of, 


all of man, 1 1 7 
ascism, a pragmatic substitute for 

philosophy, 15 
'earlessness of the philosopher, 

'echner, Gustav Theodor (1801-87), 

176, 190 
ichte, Johann Gottlieb (1762-1814), 

176, 186, 187 
'ichte, Immanuel Hermann (1796- 

i879)> 176, 187 
"icino, Marsilio, 179 
'ire, use of, 98 
first and last causes, 42 
rorgetfulness of self (Forsakenness), 

^9. 24 
freedom: essential for philosophy, 

37-8; is man's existence, 45; 

inseparable from God, 45; man's 

freedom to decide, 64; calls for 

guidance, 66-9 ; and transcendence, 

7 1 ; result of restrictions on, 90 ; 

never isolated, 1 1 5 
reud, Sigmund (1856- 1939), 176, 


Salileo, Galilei (1564-1642), 136 
[jrerman idealism, philosophy of, 


German philosophical movement 
( 1 760-1840), 140 

Sod: revelation of, and philosophy, 
14; manifestation of, 26; existence 
oriented toward, 32-3; the idea of, 
39-51; all-sufficiency of, 39-40; 
living of Jeremiah, 39-40 ; originat- 
ing in thought (Greek conception), 
40-1 ; the theological proposition, 
41 ; proofs of existence of, 4a et seq. ; 
not an object of knowledge or 
evidence, 44; is authentic reality, 
47; true attitude towards, 48; 

invisible, inconceivable, un- 
thinkable, 48-9; one, and only 
49-50; glory of, 49; will of, 50; 
and freedom of man, 65 ; voice of, 
in self-awareness, 68; voice of, in 
sublime moments, 70; meaning 
of obedience to, 72-3; reality of 
the world and, 80; speech of, in the 
world, 82; absolute transcendence 
of, 82; unlimited devotion to, 
83-4; speaks from within, 90; 
what he wants of men, 105-6 

Godlessness and philosophy, 14 

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von (1749- 
1832), 189 

Good, the, 40 

Good and evil: antithesis of, 59-62; 
differentiation at three levels, 

Grace, 90 

Greece, spiritual foundations laid in, 

Greek conception of science, 159-2 

Greek philosophy, 39 et seq., 136, 

Grenzsituation,=^ultim3.te situation, q.v. 

Guidance, where obtained by, 

Guilt, 20 

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich 
(1770-1831), 134, 136, 138, 140, 
T73-4, 176, 186, 187, 189, 192; on 
Christian structure of history, 99; 
on fall of man, 117; dialectical 
method of, 155 

Hellenistic Empire, 1 02 

Heraclitus (540-475 B.C.), 100 

Heroism, solitary, 69 

Hieroglyphs of transcendence, 50 

Hippocrates (fifth century B.C.), 
advance from, 8 

Historical injunction, 69 

Historicity, absolutely true but not 
absolute truth, 47 

History: crucial turning point in, 
24-6; essential to self-awareness, 
96; causal relations in, 97; brief 
outline of, 97 et seq.; basic segments 
of, 97 et seq.; man's awareness of, 
loi; meaning of, 104-6; ultimate 
aim of, 106-8 




History of philosophy, 132-44; four 

periods of, 136-8; idea of unity in, 

138-9; the beginning, 139-40; 

development and progress, 140-1 ; 

classification of philosophers, 141-2 
Hobbes, Thomas (1588-1679), 175, 

Holderlin, Johaim Christian (1770- 

1843), u 
Homer, 100, 191 
Huangti, Empire of, 102 
Humanists, 178-9 
Hume, David (171 1-76), 140, 176, 

Humility in receiving God's guidance, 


Hwang River, civihzation on, 98 
Hylozoism, 28-9 

Ideas, speculative, 34 

Images, negation of, in closest 
approach to God, 48 

Imperative, unconditional, 52-62. 
And see Unconditional imperative 

Imperative, universal. See Universal 

Imperatives, conditional, 55 

Imperfectibility of the world, 44 

Independence: rejected by totalit- 
arianism, no; apparent disap- 
pearance of, no; ambivalence of 
concept of, 1 12-15; absolute inde- 
pendence impossible, 115; limita- 
tions of, 1 15-18; how to achieve a 
measure of, 1 18-19 

Independent philosopher, the, iio- 

India, spiritual foundations laid in, 

98; development of independent 

philosophy, 135 
Indian philosophy, texts on, 190-1 
Individual, relation of, to God, 47 
Indus, River, civilization on, 98 
Inference that God exists, 43 
Injunction, historical. See Historical 

Insane, spontaneous philosophy of 

the, 1 1 
Institutions, irremediable injustice 

of, 108 
Intellect and faith, 93 
Intellectual opportunism, 114 

Intellectual passivity of twentieth! , 
century, 137 '■ 

Interpretation, all knowledge is, 77-9 

Iran. See Persia 

IrresponsibiUty, independence of, 
1 13-14 

Isaiah the Prophet, 100 


Jaspers' discussion: of the ultimate 
situation, 2on.; of the enlighten- j 
ment, 87^. 

Jeremiah the Prophet, the living God 
of, 39-40, too 

Judgment, of man and of God, 68 

Kant, Immanuel (i 724-1 804), 42, 
46, 134, 136, 140, 176, 177, 186-7, 
192-3; on perversion, 59; on duty 
and inclination, 60; on the pheno- 
mentality of the empirical world, 
79 ; on enlightenment, 88 ; on doing 
good, 1 17-18; on studying philo- 
sophy, 1 71-3 

Kautilya, 133, 190 

Kepler, Johann (157 1-1630), 136 

Kierkegaard, Soren Aaby (1813-55), 
138; 176, 188, 190; "A desperates 
will to be oneself", 45; and God's 
guidance, 67; on the demonic in 
man, 117 

Knowledge: advance of, and the 
sense of the mysterious, 43-4; 
always conditional, 57 

Knowledge, fulfilled, and authentic 
nonknowledge, 77 

Knowledge, scientific : compared with 
philosophy, 7, 157; not indis- 
pensable, 8; through method, 74 

La Bruy^re, Jean de (1645-96), 176, 

Laissez-faire, 91 
Language, use of, 98 
LaoTse (pre-Confucius), 99, 116, 190 
La Rochefoucauld, Francois de 

(1613-80), 176, 186 
Leibnitz, Gottfried Wilhelm (1646- 

1 716), 175. .185-6 
Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov 

(1870-1924), on science, 158 
Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim (1729- 

81), 136, 187 
Liberalism, 91 



|(ife: and the unconditional im- 
perative, 52 et seq.; ultimate basis 
of, 56; and matter, 76; always 
experimental, 125-6 
iocke, John (163 2- 1704), 140, 176, 

^ogic, symbolic, 149 

^otze, Rudolf Hermann (181 7-81), 
176, 187 

.ouis the Bavarian (1287-1347), 181 

^ove: wordless and impersonal, for 
God, 50-1; unconditional, 57-8; 
versus hate, 59-60; and wUl to 
authentic reality, 62; un- 
conditional commandment of, 72 

;.ucretius (96-55 B.C.), 175 

Luther, Martin (1483- 1546), 136, 

' 175, 182-3; °^ God, 80 

MachiaveUi, Niccol6 (1469- 152 7), 
134, 175, 184 

Mahabharata, the, 190 

Man, 63-73; basic universality of, 15; 
attitude to failure crucial, 23; 
deification of, 45; essential that he 

' distinguish between good and evil, 
61; apprehension of man as a 
whole, 63; existence in relation to 
God, 64-5; empirical knowledge 
of man not enough, 65-6; guidance 
of, 66-9; history of, 96-109. And 
see History 

Mankind, unity of, the aim of history, 

Marcus Aurelius (a.d. i 21-180), 175 

Martyrdom, 53 

Marx, Karl (1818-83), "^izss in- 
fluence of, 138; an important 
force in scientific development, 


Marxism, a pragmatic substitute for 
philosophy, 15; claim to vuiiversal 
scientific validity, 154 

Mastery over ideas, 112 

Materialism, 28 

Mathematical conception of uni- 
versal matter, 76 

Matter and life, 76 

Maurya dynasty, 102 

Meditation, worldless, 80; solitary, 
\22 et seq.; content of, 123-4 

Mesopotamia, civilization of, 98 

Metaphysic, the true, of Plotinus, 1 78 

Metaphysical level of differentiation 
between good and evil, 60-2 

Metaphysical theories, 28, 34-6 

Metaphysics: intimation of the 
Comprehensive through, 35; no 
substitute for, 161 

Method, in scientific knowledge, 74 

Michelangelo (1475- 1564), 191 

Mind, 33 

Montaigne, Michel de (1533-92), 175, 

Moral imperative, 59-60 ; of modem 
science, 152 

Moral level of differentiation between 
good and evil, 59, 60, 61-2 

Morally admissible, the absolute, 59 

More, St. Thomas (1478- 1535), 
175, 184; moral energy of, 53 

MoTse, 99, 190 

Mysticism, meaning of, 33-4; in- 
communicable, 35 

Mystics, Chinese, pure contempla- 
tion of, 81 

Nero, Emperor, 54 

Nicholas of Cusa (1401-64), 134, 175, 
182; on the intellect, 158 

Nietzsche, Friedrich (1844-1900), 
138, 176, 188, 190, 193; radical 
thesis of, 117 

Nihilism, 37 

Nonknowledge : authentic, 77; ex- 
ploitation of, 95; only possible 
through definitive knowledge, 160 

Nonobject and object, 31 et seq. 

Obedience: to absolute imperative, 
52 et seq. ; clearly heard in freedom, 
69; to objective authorities and to 
God, 72-3; limit of, in reading 
philosophy, 171-2 

Object and nonobject, ^i et seq. 

Objects, understanding oriented to- 
ward, 32 

Order, essential to philosophical life, 

Other and I, 29 et seq. 

Palestine, spiritual foundations laid 

in, 98 
Pali Canon of Buddhism, 190 



Paracelsus, Theophrastus (1490- 

1541)1 »75> 184 
Parmenides of Elea {circa 539-474 

B.C.), 100, 1 80 ; speculative doctrine 

of being, 48 
Pascal, Blaise (1623-62), 175, 185 
Paul, St., 116, 117, 136 
Peace in the belief in God's being, 71 
Peacefulness of the philosopher, no 
Perfection, 12 
Peripatetics, 178 
Persia, spiritual foundations laid in, 


Perversion: or true evil, 59—60; of 
enlightenment, 92-3; dangers of in 
the philosophical life, 128-9 

Phenomenality of empirical existence, 

Phenoinenology of Mind (Hegel), 192 
Philosopher: the independent, iiO~ 
19; training in scientific discipline 
essential, 159 
Philosophers, the first, loi 
Philosopbia perennis, 16, 162 
Philosophical faith, thesis of, 67 
Philosophical life, the, 1 20-3 1 ; paths 

of, 122 et seq.; goal of, 129-31 
Philosophical thought and rational 

knowledge, 126 
Philosophize, to, is to learn how to 

die, 53-4 
Philosophy: not characterized by 
progressive development, 7-8 ; con- 
cerned with the "whole of being", 
8; takes account of scientific 
knowledge, 8; without science 
( = spontaneous philosophy), exis- 
tence of, 8-12: accessible to all, 9; 
ever-present, 11-12; meaning and 
nature of, 12-16; aim of, 12, 13-14; 
sources of, 17-27; ultimate source 
of, 26-7; the first question of, 28; 
speculative ideas, 34; and state- 
ments of lack of faith, 87; history of, 
132-44 {and see History of philo- 
sophy) ; three forms of study of, 
133; must be studied with the 
world in which it was produced, 
134; endures at ail times, 141; 
and science, 147-67; the science 
par excellence, 147; effects of 
modem scientific trends on, 148- 

50; how it becomes science 
159 et seq.; objects and methods of,i ^ 
161; both less and more than i '' 
science, 162; the reading of, 168-U 
94; three parts of study, 168-70;^'' 
how to read, 170-3; what to read, " 
173-4; texts, i"]/!^ et seq.; character- 
ization of modern, 183-90 

Physician, function of, 129 

Pico della Mirandola, Giovanni (1463- 

94), 179 

Plato (428-348 B.C.), 100, 133, 140, 
166, 171, 175, 177, 192-3; no 
progress beyond, 8; moved by f' 
wonder, 24; teaching on God (the 
Good), 40; speculative doctrine of 
being, 48; philosopliieal concep- 
tion of science, 153-4 

Plotinus (a.d. 204-70), 34, 175, 
1 78 

Plutarch (a.d. 45-125), 175, 17B 

Polytheism, 71 

Polyvalence, 32 

Practice a source of reality, 74 

Pragmatic substitute for philosophy, 


Prayer, degeneration of, 72 

Premises of faith and of sensory 
experience, 94-5 

Pre-Socratics, 175, 176-7 

Propositions to suggest meaning of 
the unconditional imperative, 56-8 

Pseudo-knowledge, 85 

Psychoanalysis, 156 

Psychotherapy, grounded in philo- 
sophy, 129 

Purity essential in science and 
philosophy, 157-63 

Questioning: essential to philosophy, 
12; the first question, 28 

Racial theory, 1 56 

Radiance, thought and, 49 

Ranke, Leopold von (i 795-1886), 
176, 189 

Rationalistic pseudo-knowledge, 95 

Reality, to find and apprehend, 13; 
of failure, 22-3; symbol of, 36; 
physical, 36; of God, 46-7 {and see 
God) ; unconditional imperative 
and, 56-7; definition of, 74; 



eality — contd. 

knowledge of, 74; absolute, cannot 
be apprehended, 79; devotion to, in 
the world, 83 

Leason, vigilance of, 13-14 

Redemption: search for, 23; religions 
of, 23, 135 

Reflection: on God, 50-1; self- 
reflection, 123; transcendive reflec- 
tion, 123-4; reflection on im- 
mediate task, 124 

leligion, biblical, 92 

leligious history, 191 

Lembrandt(Rerabrandt Harmens van 
Rijn, 1606-69), 191 

Revelation, theological proposition 
of, 41 

loman Empire, 102 

'acrificium intellectus, 165 

Jaints and realistic scrutiny, 54 

Jceptics, the, 175, 178 

schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph 

von (1775-1854), 43, 134, 136, 176, 

1 36, 187 
kholasticism, 135, 136, 140, iBo 
Schopenhauer, Arthur (i 788-1 860), 

30, 193 
^cibnce (sciences): in sources of, 74; 
systematization of the, 76 ; critical 
approach to, 77; a main element of 
enlightenment, 90-1 ; destructive 
of faith, 91; technology, age of, 
98-g, 103-4; philosophy and, 
147-67. And see Knowledge 
;iences, modern: spirit of, 15072; 
striving for total philosophical 
knowledge, 152-3; and Plato's 
philosophical conception of science, 
153-4; three imperative tasks of, 

Scientific attitude, true, 91 
Scotus Erigena, John {c. 815-877), 

175, 180 
Seals, old university, 164 
Security, search for, 21-2 
Self-assertion and despair, 45 
Self-conviction, 88 
Self-examination, continuity of, 93 
Self-forgetfulness, danger of, 1 2 1 
Selfhood, miracle of, 45 
Self-reflection, nature of, 123 

Self-will, dangers of, 68 

Seneca {d. a.d. 65), 175, 177; 

martyrdom of, 54 
Sextus Empiricus, 1 75 
Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper, 

third Earl of (1671-1713), 176, 186 
Shankara, 190 
Shi, Empire of, 102 
Situations, ultimate, 19-20, son. 
Sociological conditions of the axial 

age, 102 
Socrates (470-399 B.C.), 140; and 

obedience to absolute imperative, 53 
Solitude, truth in, 25-6 
Sophocles (495-406 B.C.), 191 
Speech, God's, in the world, 82 
Spengler, Oswald (i 880-1 936), 97 
Spinoza, Benedictus de (1632-77), 

134, 136, 175, 185 
Spiritual foundations laid (800-200 

B.C.), 98, 99-102 
Spiritualism, 28 
Statement and discussion, 86-7 
Stein, Lorenz von, 176, 188 
Stillness of being, the, 49 
Stoicism, 22-3, 24; empty and rigid, 

26, 175, 178 
Subject-object dichotomy, 29 et seq.; 

meaning of, 30-1 ; implications of, 

31; three modes of, 31-3; result of 

awareness of, 37-8 
Suflfering, 20 

Superstition, symbols and, 36 
Symbol, metaphysics a, 35-6 
Symbolic logic, 149 
Symbols of transcendence, 50 
Systematization of the sciences, 76 

Taoists, attempt to apprehend God, 

Teachers of philosophy, 165-7 
Thales of Miletus (640-546 B.C.), 15 
Theology, and philosophy, 164-5 
Thomas, St., of Aquinas (1225-74), 

134, 175, 1 80- 1, 182 
Thought, <GI^od originating in, 40 et 

seq.; and radiance, 49; power of, 

Thucydides {b. circa 470 B.C.), 100 
Time, unconditional is timeless in, 58 
Tocqueville, Comte de (1805-59), 

176, 188 



Tolerance, 91 

Tools, invention of, 98 

Totalitarianism, and independent 
philosophy, 14, no 

Toynbee, Arnold Joseph, 97 

Tradition, 22; and universal 
principles, 82-3 

Transcendence, 32-3; mystery of, 
44; and freedom, 45; hieroglyphs 
or symbols of, 50 ; and awareness of 
self, 64; guidance through, 67-8; 
and obedience, 69; man's relation 
to, 70-3 ; absolute, of God, 82 

Transcending reflection, 123-4 

Transience, universal, of things, 

Truth, search for, 1 2 ; fulfilled only in 
communication, 26; absolute, and 
the absolutely true, 47; threatened 
by overweening claims to the 
absolutely true, 70; scientific and 
philosophical, 163 

Tsin, Empire of, 102 

Ultimate, attairunent of the, 49 
Unconditional imperative, the, 52-6; 

implies a decision, 56-7 ; has reality 

in man, 57-8; is timeless in time, 

58; an intimation of God's 

guidance, 67 
Understanding, oriented toward 

objects, 32 
Unity in the history of philosophy, 

question of, 1 38-9 
Unity of mankind, aim of history, 

Universal imperative, 69-70 
University, striving of, to achieve 

unity of sciences and philosophy, 

1 63 et seq. 

Upanishads (circa 1000-400 B.C.), 

100, 133, 190 
Utility, and philosophy, 15 

Validity, universal, not produced by 

philosophy, 7 
Van Gogh, Vincent (1853-90), 11 
Vauvenargues, Marquis de (1715- 

47), 176, 186 
Vision and being, 1 13-14 

Wealth, infinite, 49 

Weber, Max (1864-1920), 97, 1764 

Western character of development in 

Christian era, 135 etseq. 
Whole, subordination to the, 26 
Will of God, 50 
Will to communication, the ultimate 

source of philosophy, 26-7 
Will to evil, 60 
Will to reality, 60 
William of Ockham (1300-49), 175, 


Wisdom, 12; of God, 46 

Wonder, sense of, 10; the source oi 
philosophy, 1 7, 24 

World, the, 74-84; precariousness o: 
things in, 22 ; not eternal, 43-4; th< 
phenomenality of empirical exist' 
ence, 79; reality of, 80-1 

World eternal, 82 

World systems and coherent know- 
ledge, 75 

Worship, religious, 122-3 

Xenophanes of Colophon (sixth 
century B.C.), teaching on God, 40 

Zarathustra, 100 







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Einfuhrung in die Philosophie main 

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